Cover image for The invention of Native American literature
The invention of Native American literature
Parker, Robert Dale, 1953-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xi, 244 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Tradition, invention, and aesthetics in Native American literature and literary criticism -- Nothing to do : John Joseph Mathews's Sundown and restless young Indian men -- Who shot the sheriff : storytelling, Indian identity, and the marketplace of masculinity in D'Arcy McNickle's The surrounded -- Text, lines, and videotape : reinventing oral stories as written poems -- The existential surfboard and the dream of balance, or "To be there, no authority to anything" : the poetry of Ray A. Young Bear -- The reinvention of restless young men : storytelling and poetry in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and Thomas King's Medicine River -- Material choices : American fictions and the post-canon.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS153.I52 P37 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Robert Dale Parker is Professor of English at the University of Illinois

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

"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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Parker (Univ. of Illinois) counters the notion that Native American literature is a recent phenomenon by looking closely at Native novels of the 1930s. He then chooses four major topics to describe the "invention" of Native American literature: the oral, the poetic, young men's threatened masculinity, and "Indian cultures' aloof renegotiations of what the dominant culture understands as authority." Parker finds these themes in literature by Leslie Silko, Thomas King, N. Scott Momaday, and others, but in actuality, these themes are arbitrary parameters that only serve to narrow the understanding of a complicated and varied field of literature that often seeks to defy such approaches. Though Parker sets up his work by identifying himself as a non-Indian poststructuralist feminist and criticizes non-Indian understanding of Native works, to a lesser degree he does the very thing he critiques. He generalizes and decides, with some authority, what Native texts really mean. Though much-ignored texts by John Joseph Mathews, D'Arcy McNickle, and most deservedly Young Bear are included, Parker fails to present a careful reading. And unfortunately, one finds few sources in this area to turn to for better work. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended. N. M. Peeterse J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College

Table of Contents

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