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Palgrave Macmillan

The Black Indian in American Literature

ISBN 9781137389176
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

The first book-length study of the figure of the black Indian in American Literature, this project explores themes of nation, culture, and performativity. Moving from the Post-Independence period to the Contemporary era, Keely Byars-Nichols examines the works of six key authors: John Marrant, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Stoddard, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Leslie Marmon Silko. As often as their characters reinforce or are subjected to simplistic representations, they use their multiple rooted identities to gain freedom and assert agency. By examining both canonical and little-known primary texts, Byars-Nichols re-centers a typically marginalized racial group in a way that challenges stereotypes and conventional ways of thinking about race and culture, providing valuable context for readers interested in the overlap between African American, Native American, and Multicultural Studies.

Keely Byars-Nichols is an Assistant Professor of English at Mount Olive College, USA. Her research and teaching interests include Native American Literature, American Literature, Multicultural Studies, and Composition Studies.

Introduction: Within Our Borders and On Our Borders: Negotiating Shared Black and Native Histories

1. Assuming the Habit of the Country: John Marrant's Narrative and Playing Indian

2. Domesticated Savagery: Blackness and Indigeneity in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Elizabeth Stoddard's Temple House

3. On Precarious Footing: William Faulkner's Sam Fathers and the Specter of Slavery

4. Black Nationalism and Native Separatism Unhinged: Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon

5. The First Black Indian: Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead

Conclusion: Toward a Black Indian Poetics and Politics


"This is the first study of its kind - a very well-written and researched analysis of a literary field that is currently under-developed, if not entirely undeveloped. The research is rigorous; the critical framework is carefully located; the readings are detailed and fascinating; and the structure - drawing the reader chronologically through a range of literary developments surrounding the figure of the black Indian - works well to situate the study within existing historical studies. The book is firmly situated at the forefront of a new and exciting field of literary study." - Rebecca Tillett, Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Culture, University of East Anglia, UK, and author of Contemporary Native American Literature
"This book takes up the thorny and perhaps leftover question in black Indian Studies: not why classifications are made, but how such classifications become reified in communities and in the literature that seeks to serve them. Perpetually worrying the boundary between culture and race, between Indianness and blackness, Byars-Nichols brings new light to canonical works by Melville, Morrison, Faulkner, and Silko, providing insightful readings for scholars in the field. This study is very necessary - scholars will find much to engage here." - Sharon P. Holland, Associate Professor, English & African and African American Studies Departments, Duke University, USA
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