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Sovereign Stories

Aesthetics, Autonomy and Contemporary Native American Writing


Padraig Kirwan

Sovereign Stories examines contemporary Native American writers’ engagement with various forms of cultural, political, and artistic sovereignty. The author considers literature’s ability to initiate vital discussions about tribal autonomy in modern America and suggests that innovative literary styles are a compelling articulation of the connection between aesthetic and political concerns. In so doing, he concentrates on fictional and poetic forms, the structure and imagery of which comment on indigenous autonomy, selfdetermination, and artistic activism. Offering original selective analysis of the fiction and poetry of Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Sherman Alexie, David Treuer, LeAnne Howe, Louise Erdrich, Greg Sarris, and Craig Womack, this book explores these tribal authors’ concern with intellectual and creative sovereignty and deftly links those interests to the broader cultural and political issues faced by Native American communities today.


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I would like to thank the Fulbright Commission in Ireland and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. I was extremely grateful to receive scholarships from both organizations, and I would like to acknowledge the committee members, administrators, reviewers, and donors who make these awards possible. Star Wallowing Bull gave me permission to use his fantastic pencil drawing A Five Star Double Feature for the cover, and I would like to thank Star for his generosity in doing so. The folks at Peter Lang, Oxford, especially Hannah Godfrey, were tremendously helpful throughout the process of writing this book and preparing the manuscript. I would like to thank Sean Walshe and the staf f of the Avondale Community College for teaching so many of us about the strength of Irish community and Irish culture. Go raibh mile maith agaibh. I owe a debt of gratitude to the faculty of the School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin. Special thanks must go to Ron Callan for his mentorship, collegiality, and friendship over the years. Declan Kiberd, Maria Stuart, and John Brannigan were also superb teach- ers, and proved to be kind and helpful colleagues when I began my teach- ing career at UCD. Elaine Tyler May and Lary May became fast friends when they invited me to visit the University of Minnesota in 2000. I truly appreciated the warm welcome that I got in Minneapolis-St Paul. (I can say “warm” because they wisely advised me to visit...

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