Deep Waters


Deep Waters

The Textual Continuum in American Indian Literature

Christopher B. Teuton

270 pages


November 2018


$25.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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November 2018


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November 2010


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eBook (PDF)
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November 2010


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About the Book

Weaving connections between indigenous modes of oral storytelling, visual depiction, and contemporary American Indian literature, Deep Waters demonstrates the continuing relationship between traditional and contemporary Native American systems of creative representation and signification. Christopher B. Teuton begins with a study of Mesoamerican writings, Diné sand paintings, and Haudenosaunee wampum belts. He proposes a theory of how and why indigenous oral and graphic means of recording thought are interdependent, their functions and purposes determined by social, political, and cultural contexts.
The center of this book examines four key works of contemporary American Indian literature by N. Scott Momaday, Gerald Vizenor, Ray A. Young Bear, and Robert J. Conley. Through a textually grounded exploration of what Teuton calls the oral impulse, the graphic impulse, and the critical impulse, we see how and why various types of contemporary Native literary production are interrelated and draw from long-standing indigenous methods of creative representation. Teuton breaks down the disabling binary of orality and literacy, offering readers a cogent, historically informed theory of indigenous textuality that allows for deeper readings of Native American cultural and literary expression.

Author Bio

Christopher B. Teuton (Cherokee Nation) is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of the American Book Award–winner Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars and the coeditor of Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective.


"Christopher Teuton's study of four American Indian writers . . . offers a useful model for theorizing the interdependence of oral and written traditions within Indigenous communities."—Lindsey Claire Smith, Great Plains Quarterly

"Articulating a much-needed change in the way scholars approach Native American literatures, Teuton's thought-provoking study redefines one's sense of the relationship between tradition and modernity and poses significant questions for further research and work in the field."—C.L. Sheffield, Choice

“Teuton moves elegantly between his tribal background and a multitribal approach that makes a convincing claim for rethinking the role of media in arguments about indigenous literary studies—indeed, in literary studies across the board.”—Wicazo Sa Review

“A careful examination of modes of Native American storytelling focusing on links between the oral, graphic, and critical impulses.”—Richard Mace, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Table of Contents


Introduction: Diving into Deep Waters    

1. The Oral Impulse, the Graphic Impulse, and the Critical Impulse: Reframing Signification in American Indian Literary Studies

2. N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain: Vision, Textuality, and History   

3. Trickster Leads the Way: A Reading of Gerald Vizenor's Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles     

4. Transforming "Eventuality": The Aesthetics of a Tribal "Word-Collector" in Ray A. Young Bear's Black Eagle Child and Remnants of the First Earth   

5. Interpreting Our World: Authority and the Written Word in Robert J. Conley's Real People Series     

Epilogue: Building Ground in American Indian Textual Studies     


Works Cited



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