Toward a Native American Critical Theory articulates the foundations and boundaries of a distinctive Native American critical theory in this postcolonial era. In the first book-length study devoted to this subject, Elvira Pulitano offers a survey of the theoretical underpinnings of works by noted Native writers Paula Gunn Allen, Robert Warrior, Craig Womack, Greg Sarris, Louis Owens, and Gerald Vizenor. In her analysis Pulitano confronts key issues and questions: Is a distinctive way of reading and interpreting Native texts possible or needed? What is the relation between a Native American critical discourse and a more general postcolonial critical theory? Will Native critical theory be subsumed within postcolonial theory and homogenized as a colonial Other, or will it test postcolonial ideas against Native American problems and predicaments? And how can Native critical theory redefine Western styles of theory?
Unlike Western interpretations of Native American literatures and cultures in which external critical methodologies are imposed on Native texts, ultimately silencing the primary voices of the texts themselves, Pulitano's work examines critical material generated from within the Native contexts and epistemologies to propose a different approach to Native literature. Pulitano argues that the distinctiveness of Native American critical theory can be found in its aggressive blending and reimagining of oral tradition and Native epistemologies on the written page—a powerful, complex mediation that can stand on its own yet effectively subsume and transform non-Native critical theoretical strategies.
Controversial and persuasive, Toward a Native American Critical Theory defines the parameters of a unique Native American critical discourse and reveals its potential for writers and critics alike.
Elvira Pulitano is an assistant professor of English at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.