The im/possibility of recovery in Native North American literatures

  • Author / Creator
    Van Styvendale, Nancy
  • Recovery is a ubiquitous theme in Native North American literature, as well as a repeated topic in the criticism on this literature, but the particulars of its meaning, mechanics, and ideological implications have yet to be explored by critics in any detail. Other than natural/ized telos, what precisely is recovery as it is constructed in Native literature? How might we describe the recovered subject(s) of this literature? To what ends is recovery, as both literary genre and discourse of Native identity, enacted and re-enacted? The Im/possibility of Recovery in Native North American Literatures explores classic and counter recovery narratives, a genre the study coins, and highlights how recovery, defined as “homecoming” by the genre, is characteristically im/possible. Providing in depth readings of four representative recovery narratives, Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash, Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer, Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen, and Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road, as well as an overall survey of the recovery narrative tradition, Im/possibility argues that recovery is re-formulated through its melancholic introjection of those for whom recovery is impossible. The study is divided into four main sections: the first explores the historical production of recovery as literary tradition in the late 1960s and 70s in the wake of termination and relocation policies in Canada and the United States. The second section brings together trauma theory rooted in Holocaust Studies with indigenous literary articulations of the trauma of displacement to argue that recovery narratives craft a distinctly Native North American understanding of trauma as “trans/historical.” The third section turns to the question of agency, re-evaluating the subversive potential of colonial discourses of subjection. Rather than continuing to perceive such discourses as repressive of “authentic” Native identities, Im/possibility uses poststructuralist analyses of subject formation to focus on the productive aspects of subjectification. The final section fleshes out recovery’s mechanics, the way recovery works--that is, both operates and succeeds--returning via a psychoanalytic analysis of discourse to theorize its melancholic composition.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Zackodnik, Teresa (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Read, Daphne (English and Film Studies)
    • Huhndorf, Shari (Ethnic Studies and Women's and Gender Studies, University of Oregon)
    • Slemon, Stephen (English and Film Studies)
    • Andersen, Chris (Native Studies)