Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography

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Using contemporary autobiography theory and literary, historical, and ethnographic approaches, Wong explores the transformation of Native American autobiography from pre-contact oral and pictographic personal narratives through late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century life histories to written contemporary autobiographies. This book expands the definition of autobiography to include non-written forms of personal narrative and non-Western concepts of self, highlighting the incorporation of traditional tribal modes of self-narration with Western forms of autobiography and charting the historical transition from orality to literacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A remarkable synthesis....Well written, well organized, and insightful....A book that will endure on the shelves of those who work in the fields of American-Indian history, American-Indian literature, oral history, and in the fields of biography and autobiography in the United States."—Florida Historical Review

"Numerous photographs of pictographs not only illustrate [Wong's] argument but also provide the reader with an excellent sample of this very interesting but not readily available material....Wong's study opens up rewarding new avenues in the study of Native American autobiography."—North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains

"A serious study that helps readers to better understand the evolution of Native American life and literature."—Magill Book Reviews

"A welcome addition to previous books on the subject....Sending My Heart Back Across the Years contains useful, engaging, nontechnical discussion of several Plains autobiographers and their work."—American Literature

"An excellent scholarly work by Professor Wong. It provides for cross cultural understanding through synthesis as well as analysis rather than static academic narrative."—The Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195069129
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/1992
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Native American Self-Narration and Autobiography Theory 11
Native American Concepts of Self, Life, and Language 13
The Web of Self-Narration: Native American and Euro-American Autobiographical Traditions 20
2 Pre-Contact Oral and Pictographic Autobiographical Narratives: Coup Tales, Vision Stories, and Naming Practices 25
Coup Tales 26
Nineteenth-Century Plains Indian Names and Autobiography 37
3 Pictographs as Autobiography: Plains Indian Sketchbooks, Diaries, and Text Construction 57
Sketchbooks of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries 58
A Cheyenne Diarist and Indigenous Text Production 77
4 Literary Boundary Cultures: The Life Histories of Plenty-Coups, Pretty-Shield, Sam Blowsnake, and Mountain Wolf Woman 88
Two Crow Life Histories 91
Two Winnebago Life Histories 104
Performance, Ceremony, and Self-Narration 113
5 Oral and Written Collaborative Autobiography: Nicholas Black Elk and Charles Alexander Eastman 117
Nicholas Black Elk 118
Charles Alexander Eastman 139
6 Contemporary Innovations of Oral Traditions: N. Scott Momaday and Leslie Marmon Silko 153
N. Scott Momaday 155
Leslie Marmon Silko 186
Conclusion 196
Notes 201
Works Cited 225
Index 237
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