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Title: Violence and frontier in twentieth century Native American literature
Author: Whitehouse, Paul Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 4034
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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The central argument of my work is that authors Leslie Marmon Silko, Louis Owens, and Gerald Vizenor, working in the latter half of the twentieth century, use violence as a literary device (literary violence) for exposing and critiquing modes of systemic violence inherent in the formative originary myths of dominant US culture, specifically the mythic frontier and West. I argue that they engage with questions arising out of the systemic and normative violence required to sustain exceptionalist and supremacist Euramerican myth, which in turn sanitise the unspeakable violence of settler colonialism. This sanitising effect produces a form of transcendent violence, so called because the violence it describes is deemed to be justified in accordance with dominant ideology. In addressing this, Silko rewrites the mythic legacies of frontier and the West, rearticulating the unspeakable violence of conquest and domination, resulting in an anti-Western, pre-apocalyptic vision that turns away from European modernity and late twentieth century capitalism, looking instead to an Indigenous worldview. Owens similarly proposes an alternative reading of frontier where binaries of racial and cultural difference become malleable and diffuse, producing unexpected breaks with established ideology and narratives of dominance. The unseen systemic violence of the provincial town, in many ways the American societal idyll in microcosm, emerges during key confrontations between Native and non-Native characters in the liminal spaces and boundaries of the provincial town. Bringing these different threads together, Vizenor critiques systemic and institutionalised violence in his fiction and non-fiction work. His breakthrough novel Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart shares key characteristics with the work of Silko and Owens in this regard. Transgressing borders of taste, binaries of simulated Indianness, and notions of Euramerican cultural dominance, Vizenor’s mocking laugh destabilises the notion of completed conquest and closed frontiers as the final word on Euramerican supremacy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PS American literature