Toward a Native American Critical Theory

Toward a Native American Critical Theory

Toward a Native American Critical Theory

Toward a Native American Critical Theory

Synopsis

Toward a Native American Critical Theory articulates the foundations and boundaries of a distinctive Native American critical theory in this postcolonial era. In the first book-length study devoted to this subject, Elvira Pulitano offers a survey of the theoretical underpinnings of works by noted Native writers Paula Gunn Allen, Robert Warrior, Craig Womack, Greg Sarris, Louis Owens, and Gerald Vizenor. In her analysis Pulitano confronts key issues and questions: Is a distinctive way of reading and interpreting Native texts possible or needed? What is the relation between a Native American critical discourse and a more general postcolonial critical theory? Will Native critical theory be subsumed within postcolonial theory and homogenized as a colonial Other, or will it test postcolonial ideas against Native American problems and predicaments? And how can Native critical theory redefine Western styles of theory? Unlike Western interpretations of Native American literatures and cultures in which external critical methodologies are imposed on Native texts, ultimately silencing the primary voices of the texts themselves, Pulitano's work examines critical material generated from within the Native contexts and epistemologies to propose a different approach to Native literature. Pulitano argues that the distinctiveness of Native American critical theory can be found in its aggressive blending and reimagining of oral tradition and Native epistemologies on the written page- a powerful, complex mediation that can stand on its own yet effectively subsume and transform non-Native critical theoretical strategies. Controversial and persuasive, Toward a Native American Critical Theory defines the parameters of a unique Native American critical discourse and reveals its potential for writers and critics alike.

Excerpt

One of the assumptions most frequently made about critical theory is that it is the elite language of the socially and culturally privileged. Attacks against such a monolithic, hegemonic form of discourse — whether it is called pure theory, or academic jargon, or simply incomprehensible language — have characterized most critical and cultural debates in the past few decades. It is said that to do theory means to be working in an Olympian realm, a realm safely located within the confines of an imperialistic West, and thus to ignore the historical realities that invest the rest of humanity. Yet it is undeniable that something called critical theory has had a tremendous impact in shaping literary and cultural studies over the past twenty years — to the extent that the foundations of theory itself (in its monolithic, Eurocentric mode) are now being tested.

To begin a discussion about something called Native American critical theory means to run into seemingly innumerable problems, the first of which concerns the argument itself. Is there such a thing as a Native American critical theory? If so, how should we define it? As a non-Native critic, am I entitled to define it? Does my “speaking about” necessarily mean “speaking for”? Would my attempt be a further heavy-handed appropriation of the Other since, for more than two millennia, theory has been, as many would argue, the product of Western thinking? These are some of the questions that I intend to pose in the present study, with the hope of beginning a discussion that, far from being definitive or conclusive, might in the end generate further arguments for debate.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.