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Narrating North American Borderlands

Thomas King, Howard F. Mosher and Jim Lynch


Evelyn P. Mayer

The study centers on the presentation of the North American borderlands in the works of Canadian Native writer Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999), American writer Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007), and American writer Jim Lynch’s Border Songs (2009). The three authors describe the peoples and places in the northeastern, middle and northwestern border regions of the USA and Canada. The novels address important border-oriented aspects such as indigeneity, the borderlands as historic territory and as utopian space, border crossing and transcendence, post-9/11 security issues, social interaction along the border, and gender specifics. The interpretation also examines the meaning of border imaginaries, border conceptualizations, and the theme of resistance and subversion.
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2 Theoretical Frame: At the Interface of Literatures, Cultures, and Borders


A new understanding of the reasons for and nature of borders, borderlands, and bordering as represented in fiction benefits from the confluence of theories from the realms of literary, cultural, and border studies. The gap in approach between the study of literatures and cultures on the one hand and the study of borders on the other is narrowing for good reason. The spatial turn in American and Canadian studies in conjunction with the cultural turn in border studies helps to transcend the disciplinary divide. Thus, this study is a contribution to both the spatially inflected humanities and the culturally turned social sciences. A critical analysis of the representation of the Canada-U.S. border, borderlands, and bor- dering in contemporary North American fiction contributes to an understand- ing of the underlying border concepts. Border studies can draw conclusions for innovative conceptualizations regarding the ontology and epistemology of bor- ders, while literary studies can include fresh spatial insights in the discussion of contemporary North American novels. This interdisciplinary study primarily draws on the relevant theories and liter- atures from the fields of transnational American, Canadian, Native/Indigenous, and border studies. In this regard, “interdisciplinary” must be distinguished from “multi-,” “trans-,” and “post-disciplinary” approaches. To be truly inter- disciplinary also new methods need to be used in order to avoid mere “fashion- able branding” (Wilson and Donnan 16). The prefix “inter” suggests an inclusive discussion of pertinent theories from different fields, already multiple and di- verse in and of themselves, and highlights emerging joint perspectives...

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