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“The Dark Unaccompanied Moment”: Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife and the Problem of the Origin

  • KENNETH MILLARD (a1)
Abstract

This paper is a critical examination of Louise Erdrich's novel The Antelope Wife, one that has a particular focus in conceptualizations of origins. That is to say, it is an analysis of the novel that scrutinizes the various ways in which “origins” are a vitally important aspect, both of the narrative and of the conceptual paradigms that might be used to interpret it. The Antelope Wife thus problematizes the ways that historical and epistemological foundations are predicated on certain crucial moments of origin, which are then used to legitimate particular interpretations. A concept of a definitive origin is also used to underwrite ideas about cultural authenticity which are then placed in the service of social and political perspectives, with wide-ranging consequences. Such origins concern the beginning of narrative, the politics of ethnicity, and the original innocence of a fall from grace. In each case, the novel is notable for its subtle examination of where such concepts begin, and of the political implications of the very concept of beginnings.

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1 Edward Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method (New York: Basic Books, 1975), Preface, 1.

2 Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).

3 Gareth Griffiths, “The Myth of Authenticity: Representation, Discourse and Social Practice,” in Chris Tiffin and Alan Lawson, eds., De-scribing Empire: Post-colonialism and Textuality (London: Routledge, 1994), 70–85.

4 Susan Bernardin, “The Authenticity Game: ‘Getting Real’ in Contemporary American Indian Literature,” in William R. Handley and Nathaniel Lewis, eds., True West: Authenticity and the American West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 155–75.

5 Kathleen Donovan, Feminist Readings of Native American Literature: Coming to Voice (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998), 101–20.

6 Huggan, Graham, “Ethnic Autobiography and the Cult of Authenticity,Australian Studies, 15, 2 (Winter 2000), 3762 .

7 Deborah Root, Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation and the Commodification of Difference (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 78–81.

8 Thomas Docherty, Aesthetic Democracy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), 2006, 5.

9 Ibid., 4.

10 Cohen, Percy, “Theories of Myth,Man, 4 (1969), 346–61.

11 Wendy O'Flaherty, Other People's Myths: The Cave of Echoes (New York: MacMillan, 1988), 27.

12 Abigail Cheever, Real Phonies: Cultures of Authenticity in Post-World War II America (Athens: University of Georgia Press), 2010.

13 Philip Delora, Playing Indian (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 2.

14 Shari Huhndorf, Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 18.

15 Marilyn Verney, “On Authenticity,” in Anne Waters, ed., American Indian Thought: Philosophical Essays (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 133–39; Champagne, Duane, “Is American Indian Studies for Real?Wicazo Sa Review, 23, 2 (Fall 2008), 7790 ; Eva-Marie Garroutte, Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Lawrence Bonita, “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004).

16 Earling, Debra Magpie, “Real Indians,Prairie Schooner, 77, 2 (Summer 2003), 1520 .

17 Deborah Madsen, ed., Native Authenticity: Transnational Perspectives on Native American Literary Studies (New York: SUNY Press, 2010).

18 David Treuer, Native American Fiction: A User's Manual (St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2006), 197.

19 Ortiz, Simon, “Toward a National Indian Literature: Cultural Authenticity in Nationalism,MELUS, 8, 2 (Summer 1981), 712 .

20 Jace Weaver, Craig S. Womack and Robert Warrior, eds., American Indian Literary Nationalism (Alberquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006).

21 Gerald Vizenor, “On Thin Ice, You Might as Well Dance,” in Larry McCaffery ed., Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 297–312, 303.

22 Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 214.

23 Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), 1.

24 Ibid., 1.

25 Ibid., 10.

26 Ibid., 4.

27 Ibid., 10, 17.

28 Ibid., 4.

29 Ibid., 188.

30 Ibid., 10.

31 Ibid., 13.

32 Ibid., 14.

33 Ibid., 29.

34 Ibid., 28.

35 Ibid., 21.

36 Ibid., 14.

37 Ibid., 14.

38 Ibid., 25.

39 Ibid., 40.

40 Ibid., 41.

41 Ibid., 192.

42 Ibid., 19, 20.

43 Little, Jonathan, “Beading the Multicultural World: Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife and the Sacred Metaphysic,Contemporary Literature, 41, 3 (Autumn 2000), 495524 , 505.

44 Ibid., 521.

45 Ibid., 499.

46 Ibid., 506.

47 Arnold Krupat, The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 30.

48 Treuer, Native American Fiction, 201.

49 Wendy Rose, “Whiteshamanism,” M. Annette James, ed., The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization and Resistance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 403.

50 Weaver, Jace, “More Light than Heat: The Current State of Native American Studies,American Indian Quarterly, 31, 2 (Spring 2007), 233–55, 240.

51 Craig Womack, Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 5.

52 Madsen, Native Authenticity, 9.

53 Wiget, Andrew, “Identity, Voice, and Authority: Artist–Audience Relations in Native American Literature,This World: Contemporary American Indian Literature (Spring 1992), 258–63, 259.

54 Huggan, Graham, “Ethnic Autobiography and the Cult of Authenticity,Australian Studies, 15, 2 (Winter 2000), 3762 , 38.

55 Silko, Leslie, “Here's an Odd Artifact for the Fairy-Tale Shelf,Studies in American Indian Literature, 10 (1986), 178–84, 179.

56 Susan Castillo, Notes from the Periphery: Marginality in North American Literature and Culture (New York: Peter Lang, 1995), 183, 189, 182.

57 Erdrich, The Antelope Wife, 13.

58 Ibid., 227, original emphasis.

59 Ibid., 160.

60 Ibid., 200.

61 Ibid., 1.

62 Ibid., 237–38.

63 Ibid., 239.

64 Toni Morrison, Jazz (London: Pan, 1992), 229.

65 Erdrich, 240.

66 Ibid., 240.

67 Ibid., 213.

68 Ibid., 220.

69 Little, “Beading the Multicultural World,” 511.

70 Louis Owens, Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 9.

71 Ron McFarland, Understanding James Welch (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000), 111.

72 Erdrich, 212–13.

73 Ibid., 219.

74 Ibid., 213.

75 David Stirrup, Louise Erdrich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010), 10.

76 Erdrich, 129.

77 Ibid., 78.

78 Ibid., 240.

79 Ibid., 14.

80 Stuart Christie, Plural Sovereignties and Contemporary Indigenous Literature (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 2.

81 Ibid., 6.

82 Furlan, Laura, “Remapping Indian Country in Louise Erdrich's The Antelope Wife,Studies in American Indian Literatures, 19, 4 (Winter 2007), 5476 , 58.

83 Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 214.

84 Kidwell, Clara Sue, “Native American Studies: Intellectual Navel Gazing or Academic Discipline?”, American Indian Quarterly, 33, 1 (Winter 2009), 117 , 9.

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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