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And at the same time, if the theory was any good in what it had to say, you should be able to apply it to Native American literature as easily as to Rousseau. In Charles Larson put out one of the first critical books on Native American literature, which gave plot summaries and picked out some exemplary passages from a few of the better-known Indian myths.

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But Krupat was not looking to dither around with the few texts that had already been tapped for discussion. Diving into the work of anthropologists like Dell Hymes and Dennis Tedlock—who were releasing freshly translated versions of centuries-old Native American rites and ceremonies—as well as the Native novels and poems then being written, Krupat found cultural representations of enormous depth and complexity.

Even as his early efforts were greeted with enthusiasm— and published in elite journals—he was pushing deeper into a field he was creating as he went. Of course, Krupat had a second testing ground: the College itself, which famously allows its teachers enormous latitude.


They were New Agers before the fact. The idea of American Indians as otherworldly sages is just one of the many stereotypes Krupat has fought to dispel over the years.

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Depending on which box you draw your preconceptions from, Native Americans are savages, or they are Peace and Love incarnate; they are simpletons adorned with beads and feathers, or they are the savvy overseers of our national gambling habit. In fact, his fight to transform documents that were once archaeological curios into living, breathing texts has also been a fight to expand our national imagination with regard to Native Americans.

This story is leaving a lot out, and is forcing events that occurred without any clear causality into something like a narrative.

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But in retrospect, a certain architecture seems to have been in place. I grew up in the Jacob Riis housing project in Manhattan—a very isolated enclave for low-income, working-class vets. You could make the argument that it was a kind of reservation. Exploring these parallels, Krupat began to see how he was perhaps uniquely suited to find and populate this literary niche.

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Those whose voices he raised from obscurity may not have been strangers after all, but only formerly unrecognized brethren. Individuals grieve, of course, but the ceremonial and oral texts are oriented toward an expression of collective grief, so that the community might go on.

Things are a lot different today than they were 40 years ago. The field is more sophisticated. Cross-disciplinary currents have expanded our appreciation of all American literature. That the study of Native texts is more complex, more variegated, more roundly embraced as a critical part of our literature is indisputable.


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Quick Links. This was, for the moment, a revelation without a cause. David Hollander '97 has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence since He is a frequent contributor to this magazine. American Indian Poetry at the Dawn of Modernism. Nelson Ed. Oxford Handbooks.

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View all publications on Illinois Experts. Skip to main content. Menu Admissions. Why Study American Indian Studies? Give Now.

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Robert Dale Parker. Contact Information English Building Edit Your Profile. Biography Robert Dale Parker writes about American literature and critical theory, especially poetry and fiction.

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Research Interests American literature, especially fiction and poetry, especially after Critical theory American Indian literature Interested in bringing historicist, socio-cultural criticism together with formalist criticism.