Recreating identity: Acts of transcendence and resistance in Native American literature

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Hatt, Graceanne M.
Griffith, Jean Carol

The Native American novel is inherently a “cross-cultural” device with roots both in the western written tradition and Indigenous oral tradition; a mix that oftentimes makes these novels difficult for readers, especially non-Native ones. What makes these texts particularly challenging is that the need for clarification in what and who an American Indian is becomes central to the text, and the way in which myth is enmeshed within the text plays a crucial role in answering that question. In this thesis essay, I examine two broad reoccurring thematic trends that emerge from Native American literature to help illuminate the ways in which myth is used in the project of recreating identity. Through the use of literary illustrations that represent each of these broad trends or strains, I will examine the means through which movement either away from or towards the larger cultural narrative aids the reader in recognizing the issues connected with each of these strains, and how that movement achieves the ends of either healing or subversion. Next I compare the two strains showing how myth as part of oral tradition is interwoven into a palatable western literary form, or how through the use of postmodern devices it is used as part of historical revisionism. The result of this analysis reveals recreating identity is not just a project for Native Americans, but non-Natives as well, as the reader is confronted with issues about the “other” that is a part and a genesis of our own heritage.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English