NATIVE AMERICAN RENAISSANCE by Kenneth Lincoln

NATIVE AMERICAN RENAISSANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Black Elk to Leslie Silko: a lyrical celebration--not a critical survey--of modern Indian writers. Prof. Lincoln (English and American Indian Studies, UCLA) is less interested in analyzing the work of N. Scott Momaday, James Welch, or Paula Gunn Allen than in evoking its power, praising it, and putting in the context of contemporary Indian struggles for autonomy and identity. But this approach makes sense: as Lincoln points out, Indian literature is ""a written renewal of oral traditions translated into Western literary forms,"" and hence flies past the usual nets of academic criticism. It is tribal (encompassing not just blood or clan connections, but the living body of nature), ancestral, spiritual. Indian storytelling seeks not so much to create a distinctive, stylized world ""as to inflect the truth of the old ways still with us."" That inflection, of course, has always been a highly problematic process. How much of Black Elk's vision derives from his white interpreter, John G. Neihardt? How does one articulate the vision of one's tribe if, like Momaday (a Kiowa) and most of his generation, one cannot speak its language? What tribe do the mixed bloods, like Welch (Blackfoot/Gros Ventre) or Wendy Rose (Hopi/Miwok), belong to? What about the half-bloods or urban Indians (80,000 in L.A. alone)? Lincoln wisely avoids generic answers, though he does trace some pan-Indian features in the several dozen ""word senders"" he discusses: a sacramental sense of their art (speech as reality-transforming ritual), a spare simplicity, and a dogged stoicism holding back despair. Lincoln quotes his subjects at length (especially useful in the case of anonymous or little known poets) and projects them against a solid anthropological background (essential for the reader who has never heard of the Swampy Cree or a shipapuni before). A lively, generous, and well-informed--though necessarily provisional--study.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0520054571
Publisher: Univ. of California Press