Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth “The American Indian Fiction Writer: “Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, the Third World and First Nation Sovereignty” (1993)


In this article, although Cook-Lynn is discussing contemporary troubles with the literary canon, Cook-Lynn troubles the notion of justifying the exploration of Native American rhetorics as a means to expand the rhetorical canon or make the canon more inclusive.  Cook-Lynn argues that the notion of opening the canon is a multi-cultural ideal that denies other purposes for exploring Native American rhetorics, which ought to be at the forefront of a disciplinary objective.  Cook-Lynn criticizes the lack of attention to the decolonizing and nationalistic efforts that arise when critics of Native American literature focus on the cosmopolitan nature of this work.  She worries that “American Indian writers will accept the notion that they can and, perhaps, should with impunity become ‘cosmopolitans,’ serving as translators of materials into an already existing mode, or that they can and should legitimize ‘hybridity,’ or that they can and should transcend national affiliations, or that they can and should simply service as ‘exotica’” (29).  Cook-Lynn cites Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Almanac of the Dead, 1992 as constituting the embodiment  of decolonizing efforts in American Indian fiction, which enact the imagination in social and political efforts.  As Silko says herself, “writing has a living power within it, a power that would bring all the tribal peoples in the Americas together to retake the land” (qtd on 29).  Cook-Lynn advocates for looking at contemporary work by scholars’ current and historical legislative efforts to “understand the political reality of  the imagination [constituting] a major component of nationalism” (33).  Cook-Lynn says we must not dismiss the national consciousness and the efforts of sovereignty at work in Native American literature.  In addition, “the idea of decolonization is not new to tribal peoples, therefore it should not be absent from critical theory of all literary works, both traditional and contemporary” (35).  Also, and very important to our field, is that Native American fiction (rhetorics) should not be sustained by critics and scholars for Anglo-American canonical reasons (some might even suggest imperialistic reasons) rather than for either the continuation of indigenous literary traditions and development of nationalistic critical apparatuses or for the sake of simple intellectual curiousity” (35).  We need to be exploring Native American rhetorics to support their efforts toward full sovereignty or what Dussel might call the transmodern project. 

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