Understanding Louise Erdrich

Understanding Louise Erdrich

Understanding Louise Erdrich

Understanding Louise Erdrich

Synopsis

In Understanding Louise Erdrich, Seema Kurup offers a comprehensive analysis of this critically acclaimed Native American novelist whose work stands as a testament to the struggle of the Ojibwe people to survive colonization and contemporary reservation life. Kurup traces in Erdrich's oeuvre the theme of colonization, both historical and cultural, and its lasting effects, starting with the various novels of the Love Medicine epic, the National Book Award-winning The Round House, The Birchbark House series of children's literature, the memoirs The Blue Jays Dance and Books and Island in Ojibwe Country, and selected poetry. Kurup elucidates Erdrich's historical context, thematic concerns, and literary strategies through close readings, offering an introductory approach to Erdrich and revealing several entry points for further investigation. Kurup asserts that Erdrich's writing has emerged not out of a postcolonial identity but from the ongoing condition of colonization faced by Native Americans in the United States, which is manifested in the very real and contemporary struggle for sovereignty and basic civil rights. Exploring the ways in which Erdrich moves effortlessly from trickster humor to searing pathos and from the personal to the political, Kurup takes up the complex issues of cultural identity, assimilation, and community in Erdrich's writing. Kurup shows that Erdrich offers readers poignant and complex portraits of Native American lives in vibrant, three-dimensional, and poetic prose while simultaneously bearing witness to the abiding strength and grace of the Ojibwe people and their presence and participation in the history of the United States.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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