A valuable and major contribution to its field and to the
associated interdisciplinary debates.
--Jim PhillipUniversity of Essex
American mainstream culture has always been fascinated with the
notion of the primitive, particularly as embodied by Native
Americans. In Inventing the American Primitive, Helen Carr
illustrates how responses to the existence of Native American
traditions have shaped ideas of American identity and American
Inventing the American Primitive examines a body of work, both
literary and anthropological, that describes, inscribes, translates
and transforms Native American myths and poetry. Drawing on
post-colonial and feminist theory, as well as ethnography's recent
textual turn, Carr reveals the conflicts and ambivalence in these
texts. Through their writings, the writers and anthropologists
studied were attempting to preserve a culture which their country,
with their help or connivance, sought to destroy. The
contradictions and tensions of this position run throughout their
work. Although there is no simple narrative of progress in this
story, as it moves from the eighteenth-century primitivism to
twentieth-century modernism, the book shows the process by which
the richness and complexity of Native American traditions came to
Inventing the American Primitive offers a radical new reading of
American literary history, as well as fresh insights into the
powerful pull of primitivism in United States culture, and into the
interactions of gender and race ideologies.
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