Defining American Indian Literature: One Nation Divisible

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The study of contemporary American Indian writers is complicated by problems in definitions which critics, scholars, teachers and editors so far have not addressed adequately. The subject of this study is not the traditional mythology, folklore, and song of particular tribes, but the literary uses of this material, particularly in the latter half of this century and particularly by Indian writers. The questions are basic: 1) What is an Indian writer? 2) What are the legitimate literary uses of Indians and their culture? 3) Can an American Indian literary tradition be defined? And 4) What is the relation of writing by Indians to American literature as a whole? Beside several non-Indian writers (Edwin Corle, Frank Hamilton Cushing, Charles L. McNichols, Jerome Rothenberg) the book deals with several representative Indian writers (Lance Henson, Maurice Kenny, Thomas King, Adrian C. Louis, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gerald Vizenor, James Welch) and also cites Paula Gunn Allen, Jim Barnes, Peter Blue Cloud, Diane Glancy, Joy Harjo, Geary Hobson, Linda Hogan, Duane Niatum, Simon Ortiz, Carter Revard, and Wendy Rose.


“Covering subjects ranging from the cultural identity of the writer to literary use of Native American themes to Native writers’ debt to other literatures, the work includes detailed readings from various genres and discussion of cultural and historical issues. . . . Outspoken and sometimes ‘testy’ about other critics, Berner has written a thought-provoking, stimulating volume for graduate students, researchers, and faculty in the field.” - CHOICE

Table of Contents

1. What is an American Indian Writer?
2. The Downward Path from Cushing to Rothenberg
3. Using the Indian: Four Examples
4. Toward Definition of a Literary Tradition
5. American Indian Poetry as Cultural Mediation
6. American Myth, Old and New
7. American Myth, Yet Untold
Works Cited

Other Native American Studies Books