Louise Erdrich is one of the most critically and commercially successful Native American writers. This book is a fully comprehensive treatment of her writing, analysing the textual complexities and diverse contexts of her work to date. Drawing on the critical archive relating to Erdrich's work and Native American literature, it explores the full depth and range of her authorship. Breaking Erdrich's oeuvre into several groupings – poetry, early and late fiction, memoir and children's writing – it develops individual readings of both the critical arguments and the texts themselves. The book argues that Erdrich's work has developed an increasing political acuity to the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in Native American literature, and her insistence on being read as an American writer is shown to be in constant and mutually inflecting dialogue with her Ojibwe heritage.
This chapter introduces and studies the works of Louise Erdrich, a popular and highly successful Native American writer, some of which have even garnered her numerous awards, and are typically described as beautiful and powerful. It draws out historical and culturally specific readings through the theoretical methodologies that are offered by both indigenous and postcolonial theories: feminism, postmodernism and even regionalism. The chapter also presents a brief outline of the critical platform that serves as the basis of the scholarly archive relating to Erdrich's work. It then considers Erdrich's work in relation to Native and American concerns, and in relation to the many influences Erdrich has both drawn from and created in her own writing, also studying the possibility that her work is not useful to Native American political issues, due to its accessibility and/or popularity.
This chapter addresses the neglect of the richness and depth of Erdrich's canvas, which is in full view in her poetry, and, instead of using a contextual analysis, presents a close analysis of a selection of representative poems. It shows that, like most Native American poetry, Erdrich's work leans towards the personal-political, where it reflects on the aspects of place, space and the individual, through themes such as cultural and multiple heritage. The chapter also tries to show the importance and complexity of Erdrich's symbolism, an aesthetic that sets her and other Native poets apart in modern Anglophone poetry.
The Love Medicine tetralogy and Tales of Burning Love
This chapter discusses the unity and spatial relations found in the Love Medicine tetralogy and the Tales of Burning Love, identifying the metaphors used in the novels and explaining how the specific post-contact condition of Native – especially mixed blood – life in the United States is addressed. It also examines the deconstructive work of Erdrich's texts during the early stages of Love Medicine; Leslie Silko's review of Erdrich's prose style; the imagery of culture, syncretism and Catholicism in the novels; the fluidity of Erdrich's prose; and the fundamental themes of her early work.
This chapter updates Erdrich's adult fiction with several ‘mini-essays’ on certain aspects of these novels, first addressing the firm conviction that these novels are worthy of and give the same level of attention which the earlier works have received. It shows how culture and power are expressed in The Antelope Wife and the central idea of disclosure in Last Report. The chapter then discusses the master-narratives of Native American displacement, which emphasise geographical removal and cultural and spiritual dislocation, among others, and also considers land acquisition, repatriation, and truth and legacy in Erdrich's recent fiction.
This chapter addresses the ways in which Erdrich and her critics examine the complex symbiosis of her various ‘spheres’, outlining her working collaboration with Michael Dorris in order to study the revision process that is important to her work. It then discusses two of Erdrich's memoirs, and considers the ways she uses to record her influences, writing processes, and the importance of families and homes to her creativity. The chapter ends with a section on the pedagogical brief of Erdrich's children's writing.
Tradition, translation,and the global market for Native American literatures
This concluding chapter reviews Erdrich's career and her various works, showing her influence on several writers and the changes that have occurred in Native American criticism. It also clearly demonstrates how Erdrich has become a part of the continued construction of American national discourse.