UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"I became a woman through my words" : the Indigenous feminist writing of Lee Maracle and Beth Brant Cowan, Victoria


This thesis examines the short story collections and auto/biographical, self-reflexive works of Lee Maracle (Stó:lō) and Beth Brant (Mohawk), arguing that the multi-generic nature of both writers’ work constitutes it as Indigenous feminist theory. Although Indigenous women’s writing continues to be marginalized in (white) academic contexts, their writing is not necessarily undertheorized in their own literary communities—indeed, this thesis understands Indigenous women’s writing as inherently theoretical because it analyzes the interdependent systems of racist and sexist oppression brought to bear on Indigenous women. Put differently, Indigenous women writing about their lived experiences constitutes theory. Both Maracle and Brant intervene in form and content as a refusal to be fixed by the heteropatriarchal, colonial gaze. On a formal level, Maracle draws on her conceptualization of “oratory,” a Stó:lō methodology for holistically engaging with written texts, to create hybrid, multi-generic written forms. Brant, on the other hand, writes across genres as a gesture of inclusivity to the multiple, marginalized communities she writes to and for; even more, her multi-generic writing mimics her intersectional Indigenous feminist praxis. On the level of content, both writers demonstrate that a firm division between their writing and their political concerns does not exist: Maracle’s writing on violence against Indigenous women, other-than-human beings, and the earth coincide with her political advocacy off the page, and the centrality of queer Indigenous and Two Spirit characters and desire in Brant’s writing speaks to its political necessity in larger heteronormative contexts. Reading these two authors alongside each other thus enables a fuller conceptualization of the theoretical power of Indigenous feminist writing as a decolonial methodology.

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