To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Scholars of both American and U.S. southern history have turned attention to the Indigenous traces often overlooked at the dark heart of place-making. Such revisionism has proved no easy feat in the South, a place where “real” Indians are presumed to be largely extinct after the sweeping Removal land-clearing policies of the 1830s. Nonetheless, Indigenous traces linger – preserved indelibly in the region’s place names, cultural memories, and compensatory fictions. Especially in southern literature, Native hauntings appear to speak for themselves; but they are also uncannily, frighteningly reticent: “vanish’d,” “incomprehensible,” and “inexplicable.” As vital precursors to a traumatic regional history – their expulsion directly facilitating the rise of the South’s plantation economy – this chapter suggests that their centrality can be neither fully recovered nor reckoned with. Indeed, for southerners from a surprising range of backgrounds and moments, the Indian endures as a consistent, formative presence central to the region’s fictions of identity.
As both the record of and rationale for a settler construct, “Native American literature” has always been uniquely embattled: a body of production marked by particularly divergent opinions about what constitutes “authenticity,” sovereignty, and even literature. As such, its texts announce a culture beset by paradox: simultaneously primordial and postmodern; oral and inscribed; outmoded and novel; quixotic and quotidian. Above all, its texts are a site of political struggle, shifting to meet expectations both external and internal. This Introduction sets out the plural, capricious, and contested character of both Indigenous texts and our habits of evaluating them.
Native American literature has always been uniquely embattled. It is marked by divergent opinions about what constitutes authenticity, sovereignty, and even literature. It announces a culture beset by paradox: simultaneously primordial and postmodern; oral and inscribed; outmoded and novel. Its texts are a site of political struggle, shifting to meet external and internal expectations. This Cambridge History endeavors to capture and question the contested character of Indigenous texts and the way they are evaluated. It delineates significant periods of literary and cultural development in four sections: “Traces & Removals” (pre-1870s); “Assimilation and Modernity” (1879-1967); “Native American Renaissance” (post-1960s); and “Visions & Revisions” (21st century). These rubrics highlight how Native literatures have evolved alongside major transitions in federal policy toward the Indian, and via contact with broader cultural phenomena such, as the American Civil Rights movement. There is a balance between a history of canonical authors and traditions, introducing less-studied works and themes, and foregrounding critical discussions, approaches, and controversies.
Born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas, Katherine Anne Porter cultivated an elaborate fiction of genteel southernness: she adopted the name of her Kentucky-born grandmother, along with an apocryphal genealogy of illustrious ancestors and landed gentry. Yet Porter, who rarely lived in the South or even in Texas, would claim other home spaces throughout her life - or, more accurately, her stake in a southern narrative would emerge only circuitously, by way of alternative geographies and narratives in which she identified variously with the elite and the dispossessed. She eventually imported a nativist southern identity that bore the traces of a much deeper American chronicle and called frequently upon an Indigenous motif to both account for and ameliorate the anxieties of dispossession. In Porter’s fiction, an Indigenous frame narrative provides a tempting window onto a reorienting, and finally mythical, humanity unscathed by modernity’s ills. Her long career would bear the traces of an entwined southern-Indigenous imaginary steeped in the lessons and vexations of early American settler colonialism.
Hannah earned extravagant praise from both fellow writers and critics, who were collectively bedazzled by his prolific and profound universe and his inimitable prose - at once brilliant and bizarre, gorgeous and grotesque. Even Hannah’s greatest fans admit to occasional “disgust” - he never shied away from violence, and its recipients were often women or racial others. It is into this desperate, violent world that Hannah compulsively deposits his Indians as not just inept but decidedly corrupt guides to a redemption that will not come. A pioneer of so-called “Grit Lit,” Hannah’s work rejects romanticism and nostalgia - conceits that typify and bedevil Indigenous and southern cultures simultaneously. There, the Indigenous motif poses not just as guide but at times as lingering fetish, drawing its subjects toward a narrative of fulfillment, albeit one based on hurt and horror rather than transcendence. For his primarily white southern male characters, the lessons of Indigenous conquest become a contemporary parable for the self-defeating desires, vacancies, betrayals, and violence of both southern history and modernity’s insidious bequests.
Most readers agree that Faulkner’s Indian characters are romanticized, if not grotesquely stereotypical; the author himself readily admitted that he “made them up.” Indeed, neither Faulkner nor his critics seem able to conceive of his Indian as anything more than a static, romantic, obsolete trope, despite the fact that Natives appeared frequently and suggestively at the margins of his world, and that they reappeared in his fiction as self-buttressing concepts sited uncannily between reality and fantasy - an imaginary supplement or alter ego that presents a compensatory and destabilizing fiction for the white southern subject. This chapter argues that we need to acknowledge how very intimate and “real” this Indian is in order to fully appreciate the significance of their symbolic transubstantiations. There are Indians hidden in plain sight throughout Faulkner’s career in ways we have hardly begun to notice, and their “disappearance” is the product of an unspoken collusion between Faulkner’s stated method and our symptomatic critical misprision. His Indians are finally there and not-there at the same time, mirroring an uncanny vacancy in the white southern ego that both desires and rejects their supplemental knowledge.