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.
“This is an intelligent and engaging contribution to the literature exploring the variety and scope of the theories of critical analysis circulating in American Indian literary debates.”—Choice
"Important because of its serious and sustained attention to some of the most crucial questions fueling Native literary studies in the United States, Toward a Native American Critical Theory is to be commended for its willingness to take on contentious, often personalized debates in the field."—Susan Bernardin, World Literature Today
“Although Pulitano’s readers may argue with some of her conclusions, her inquiries are intriguing and insightful, and they provide good material for further conversations on Native American literary criticism, issues of Native Identity, and the roles of tribal sovereignty and communal responsibility in academic affairs.”—Scott Andrews, American Literature
“The field of Native American literary and critical theory needs studies like this one. I find the book to be very well researched, and Pulitano successfully draws on the work of other scholars to make her own claims, integrating their ideas smoothly into her discussion. . . . A significant contribution to the field of Native American literature and theory, and it deserves attention from those who seek to participate in this important discussion.”—Jesse Peters, American Indian Quarterly
“The first book-length work of criticism to contextualize the recent developments in Native American literary and cultural criticism within the growing field of Native American critical theory. Elvira Pulitano does a fine job of identifying the political and critical tensions within this field of study.”—Chris Teuton, American Indian Quarterly
“Offers valuable overviews and comparisons, many of them globally crosscultural in origin. Thus, students new to Native American literary criticism will have doors opened for them here, but even those of us who have been reading and/or writing critically about contemporary Native American literature for awhile will also find something here to get the juices flowing.”—Barbara K. Robins, American Indian Quarterly
“Take a look at Pulitano’s book. She’s a talented writer with some engaging ideas.”—Dean Rader, American Indian Quarterly