The Invention of Native American Literature

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In an original, widely researched, and accessibly written book, Robert Dale Parker helps redefine the study of Native American literature by focusing on issues of gender and literary form. Among the writers Parker highlights are Thomas King, John Joseph Mathews, D'Arcy McNickle, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ray A. Young Bear, some of whom have previously received little scholarly attention.Parker proposes a new history of Native American literature by reinterpreting its concerns with poetry, orality, and Indian notions of authority. He also addresses representations of Indian masculinity, uncovering Native literature's recurring fascination with restless young men who have nothing to do, or who suspect or feel pressured to believe that they have nothing to do. The Invention of Native American Literature reads Native writing through a wide variety of shifting historical contexts. In its commitment to historicizing Native writing and identity, Parker's work parallels developments in scholarship on other minority literatures and is sure to provoke controversy.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"Invention" in this book refers to both the creation of a Native literature in the historical sense and to the ideas that the literature itself has created. Specifically, the wide-ranging chapters cover John Joseph Mathews's Sundown, D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded, a critique of the translation and transcription of oral stories that has influenced Native studies, the poetry of Ray A. Young Bear, recent novels by Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony) and Thomas King's Medicine River, and a discussion of Native American literature "as one among many American literatures." Parker uses these texts to explore four topics that he identifies as central and recurring issues in Native literature during the last century: the oral tradition, the poetic tradition, Indian cultures' aloof renegotiations of what the dominant culture understands as authority, and the threatened masculinity of young Native men. This clearly written and informative critique is strongly recommended for all academic and large public libraries and for public libraries with Native American literature collections.-Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"This clearly written and informative critique is strongly recommended for all academic and large public libraries and for public libraries with Native American literature collections."—Library Journal, December 2002

"The Invention of Native American Literature seeks to redirect the current theoretical and thematic foci of Native American literary studies away from the essentialist, authoritative directions of the canonical past into a more postmodern understanding of the field and its relationship to international literary studies. It is a compelling, original, meticulously researched, and strikingly honest text, and I would recommend it to anyone working in the field. . . . Parker's text is also valuable for its emphasis on the works of a diverse range of Native writers, including Great Plains authors John Joseph Matthews and D'Arcy McNickle, as well as Ray A. Young Bear, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Thomas King."—Lori Burlingame, Great Plains Quarterly, Winter 2004

"The Invention of Native American Literature is an original and compelling contribution to the field. Robert Dale Parker demonstrates his points through attentive and insightful readings and his arguments should convince readers to attend more carefully to the importance of history and intercultural relations in Native American literature."—Shari M. Huhndorf, author of Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination

"Robert Dale Parker places well-known contemporary works by Native American writers within the contexts of earlier novels, tribal histories, ethnographies, local newspapers, and international debates on ethnic literature. His sense of balance is evident in his ability to identify four significant patterns in modern Native American literature while also insisting that these patterns represent evolving issues that should not be used to confine Native American literature."—Kenneth Roemer, University of Texas, Arlington

"Criticism at the present time is expected to do many things: to historicize and contextualize, to advocate and demystify, to theorize, to read closely, and to reflect critically on its own premises and positioning. Rarely does one critic do all these things well, and more rarely still do we find them all done well within the covers of the same book. But Robert Parker in The Invention of Native American Literature does all these things superbly, and more: he manages in everything he does to communicate the pleasures, simple and complex, of reading these Native American novels and poems. Pleasure is the rarest quality of all in contemporary criticism, and so the most to be valued. Somebody ought to give this book a prize."—Brian McHale, The Ohio State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801488047
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Tradition, Invention, and Aesthetics in Native American Literature and Literary Criticism 1
2 Nothing to Do: John Joseph Mathews's Sundown and Restless Young Indian Men 19
3 Who Shot the Sheriff: Storytelling, Indian Identity, and the Marketplace of Masculinity in D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded 51
4 Text, Lines, and Videotape: Reinventing Oral Stories as Written Poems 80
5 The Existential Surfboard and the Dream of Balance, or "To be there, no authority to anything": The Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear 101
6 The Reinvention of Restless Young Men: Storytelling and Poetry in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and Thomas King's Medicine River 128
7 Material Choices: American Fictions and the Post-canon 168
App Legs, Sex, Orgies, Speed, and Alcohol, After Strange Gods: John Joseph Mathews's Lost Generation Letter 188
Notes 195
Works Cited 215
Index 239
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