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Out of the Melting Pot, Into the Nationalist Fires: Native American Literary Studies in Europe

Published in American Indian Quarterly. 2011, vol. 35, no. 3, p. 353-371
Abstract This essay addresses four methodological approaches to Native Literary Studies that dominate in the European academic context: national (though not tribal nationalist), multi-ethnic, universal, and postcolonial. European scholars of Native American Literary Studies often find themselves grappling with methodological issues that lie between the twin nationalist claims of a generalizing and potentially assimilative “American Studies” approach and a Native American literary nationalist approach, like that outlined by Robert Warrior, Jace Weaver, and Craig Womack in their ground-breaking book American Indian Literary Nationalism (2006). It is to these claims that my title gestures, while referencing Elizabeth Cook-Lynn's important observation that frequently representations of Native Americans in the literary canon, in the teaching of Native American Literature, and in scholarly publications, are used as “the basis for the cynical absorption into the 'melting pot', pragmatic inclusion in the canon, and involuntary unification of an American literary voice” (Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner and Other Essays, 96). The category of “Native” is effectively “melted” into another category of cultural experience – with the attendant loss of indigenous identities, historical experiences, and claims to justice -- whether this is the universalizing canon of “Literature” per se, or more specifically a national American (settler) Literature; a national canon of minority “multi-ethnic” Literature that fails to distinguish adequately between indigenous and migrant literary production; or a transnational “postcolonial” canon. As Wolfgang Hochbruck predicted in his “Survey of Recent German Research in American Indian Literature,” back in 1991, “creating new reservations for minority literatures would eventually create new problems” (51). It would seem that this problematic time has come. Consequently, Cook-Lynn's insight guides my critique here of some of the directions in which Native American Literary Studies is currently moving in Europe.
Keywords Native American LiteratureMethodologyTribal nationalismEthnicityPostcolonialism
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MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Out of the Melting Pot, Into the Nationalist Fires: Native American Literary Studies in Europe. In: American Indian Quarterly, 2011, vol. 35, n° 3, p. 353-371. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:92017

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Deposited on : 2017-02-21

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