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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Storied voices in Native American texts : Harry Robinson, Thomas King, James Welch and Leslie Marmon Silko Chester, Blanca Schorcht

Abstract

"Storied Voices in Native American Texts: Harry Robinson, Thomas King, James Welch and Leslie Marmon Silko" approaches Native American literatures from within an interdisciplinary framework that complicates traditional notions o f literary "origins" and canon. It situates the discussion of Native literatures in a Native American context, suggesting that contemporary Native American writing has its roots in Native oral storytelling traditions. Each of these authors draws on specific stories and histories from his or her Native culture. They also draw on European elements and contexts because these are now part o f Native American experience. I suggest that Native oral tradition is already inherently novelistic, and the stories that lie behind contemporary Native American writing explicitly connect past and present as aspects o f current Native reality. Contemporary Native American writers are continuing an on-going and vital storytelling tradition through written forms. A comparison of the texts o f a traditional Native storyteller, Robinson, with the highly literate novels of King, Welch and Silko, shows how orally told stories connect with the process o f writing. Robinson's storytelling suggests how these stories "theorize" the world as he experiences it; the Native American novel continues to theorize Native experience in contemporary times. Native writers use culturally specific stories to express an on-going Native history. Their novels require readers to examine their assumptions about who is telling whose story, and the traditional distinctions made between fact and fiction, history and story. King's Green Grass. Running Water takes stories from Western European literary traditions and Judeao-Christian mythology and presents them as part of a Native creation story. Welch's novel Fools Crow re-writes a particular episode from history, the Marias River Massacre, from a Blackfeet perspective. Silko's Almanac of the Dead recreates the Mayan creation story o f the Popol Vuh in the context o f twentiethcentury American culture. Each of these authors maintains the dialogic fluidity of oral storytelling performance in written forms and suggests that stories not only reflect the world, but that they create it in the way that Robinson understands storytelling as a form of theory.

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