That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community

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  1. Louis Owens
  3. Derrida Among the Indians | Sarah Lawrence College
  4. Fiction: Native American Fiction and Religion
  5. Jace Weaver

Responding to these interventions, Krupat has mapped the current field of Native American Studies by distinguishing between nationalism, indigenism and cosmopolitanism locating himself in the third camp. Thus Teuton writes,.

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In so doing, they undergo a process of remembering and reinterpreting experiences of colonialism and related feelings of self-hatred. Upon achieving a more enabling picture of themselves in the Indian world, they are transformed Teuton conceives of these texts as achieving a cultural recovery by a working-through of the past.

Louis Owens

This process requires a confrontation with the uncanny cf. Cheah For the imagined community of the emergent nation or tribe is haunted by ghosts from an unresolved past: by the dead of lost uprisings, the shadows of failed efforts of renewal, and the doubles of the Euro-American colonizers. The figure of the specter as defined by Jacques Derrida, elaborated by Barbara Johnson and cited by Marjorie Garber 14f.

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One cannot control its comings and goings because it begins by coming back. For while the ghost is usually regarded as a copy, a revenant of the original, this ontological hierarchy is also undermined, since the ghost is conceived of as an articulation of the forgotten, the latent and the repressed, and for this reason is not contained in the original. Spectrality has also become the term of choice in arguments against essentialism. The ghost of nationalism refuses to be laid at rest. Spectrality characterizes the dynamics of post-colonial self-recognition: to contest colonial stereotypes also means confronting their after-images in postcolonial cultural self-definitions.

To reject the nostalgic invention of a unified past entails renouncing concepts of cultural authenticity as the basis for political claims of recognition.


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities.

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London: Verso, Cheah, Pheng. New York: Columbia Universitry Press, Clifford, James. Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation.

Derrida Among the Indians | Sarah Lawrence College

Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. Derrida, Jacques. Peggy Kamuf. This type of repetition was very effective in oral communication, for it firmly inculcated the incident in the minds of the listeners—much in the same manner that repetition is used today in advertising. In addition, there was an aesthetic value to the rhythm gained from repetition and an even greater dramatic effect, for the listener knew that, when the right number of incidents had been told, some supernatural character would come to the aid of the hero, sometimes by singing to him.

For this reason, oral literature is often difficult and boring to read. Oral literature also loses effect in transcription, because the reader, unlike the listener, is often unacquainted with the worldview, ethics , sociocultural setting , and personality traits of the people in whose culture the story was told and set. Because the effect of the story depended so much on the narrator, there were many versions of every good tale.

Fiction: Native American Fiction and Religion

Each time a story was told, it varied only within the limits of the tradition established for that plot and according to the cultural background of the narrator and the listeners. While studies have been made of different versions of a tale occurring within a tribe, there is still much to be discovered, for instance, in the telling of the same tale by the same narrator under different circumstances. These gaps in the study of folktales indicate not a lack of interest but rather the difficulty in setting up suitable situations for recordings.

The terms myth and folktale in American Indian oral literature are used interchangeably, because in the Native American view the difference between the two is a matter of time rather than content. American Indian mythology can be divided into three major cultural regions: North American cultures from the Eskimos to the Indians along the Mexican border , Central and South American urban cultures, and Caribbean and South American hunting-and-gathering and farming cultures.

Though each region exhibits a wide range of development, there are recurrent themes among the cultures, and within each culture the importance of mythology itself varies.

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In North America , for example, each tale can usually stand alone, although many stories share a cast of characters; in contrast, stories developed in the urban cultures of Central America and South America resemble the complicated mythologies of ancient Greece and are quite confusing with their many sexual liaisons , hybrid monsters, and giants. These mythologies are related to the concept that all animals have souls or spirits that give them supernatural power. Because humans have subsequently been differentiated from the animals, the animals appear in visions, and in stories they help the hero out of trouble.

When there are many tales involving a single character—such as Raven, Coyote , or Manabozho—the transcriptions are linked together today and called cycles see e. The body of American Indian folklore does not include riddles as found in African folklore, for example, nor does it include proverbs, though there are tales with morals attached. The importance of mythology within a culture is reflected in the status of storytellers, the time assigned to this activity, and the relevance of mythology to ceremonialism.

Jace Weaver

Mythology consists primarily of animal tales and stories of personal and social relationships; the actors and characters involved in these stories are also an index to the beliefs and customs of the people. For example, the Navajo ceremonials, like the chants, are based entirely on the characters and incidents in the mythology. The dancers make masks under strict ceremonial control, and, when they wear them to represent the gods, they absorb spiritual strength. The Aztec ceremonials and sacrifices are believed to placate the gods who are the heroes of the mythology.

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