Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading

Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading

Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading

Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading

Synopsis

Native American Literature underwent a Renaissance around 1968, and the current canon of novels written in the late twentieth century in American English by Native American or mixed-blood authors is diverse, exciting and flourishing. Despite this, very few such novels are accepted as part of the broader American literary canon.

This book offers a valuable and original approach to contemporary Native American literature. Dennis's contemplation of space and spatialized aesthetics is compelling and persuasive. Considering Native American literature within a modernist framework, and comparing it with writers such as Woolf, Stein, T.S Eliot and Proust results in a valuable and enriching context for the selected texts.

Vital reading for scholars of Native American Literature, this book will also provide good grounding in the subject for those with an interest in American and twentieth century literature more generally.

Excerpt

In Isleta the rainbow was a crack
in the universe. We saw the barest
of all life that is possible. […]
All the colors of horses
formed the rainbow,
          and formed us
watching them.

(Joy Harjo ‘Vision’)

Native American literature underwent a renaissance around 1968, and the current canon of novels written in the late twentieth century in American English by Native American or mixed-blood authors is diverse, exciting and flourishing. Despite this, very few such novels are accepted as part of the broader American literary canon. A number of factors contribute to this situation, including the contentious area of tribal allegiance versus cross-cultural textual politics. While Arnold Krupat has led the field in advocating a cosmopolitan criticism of Native American texts, Nativist intellectuals have argued stridently for a separatist position. I respect the case for a strong tradition of Native literary criticism, and understand why Robert Allen Warrior and Jace Weaver, among others, call for the development of an autonomous Native American intellectual community. European by birth and inclination, I could never pretend to participate in this essential project. At the same time I would feel dismay if the movement towards establishing intellectual sovereignty for America’s First Nations were to preclude me from reading published novels. Common sense tells me that my acts of reading and interpretation contribute to a larger sense of community that implicitly supports the current work of Nativist scholars.

Thus the aim of this study is to consider a selection of novels by Native American writers, with specific reference to issues of understanding and interpretation, focusing on textual matters, and situating myself as a specific, individual European reader. I believe in the precept that a well-written novel will educate its reader as to how to respond to and comprehend its text and context. Therefore, I enact in my critical prose the effort of attention required . . .

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