Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:3 (Summer 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Regrettably, Holler's own most original theoretical constructions suffer from what seems, anyway, the too-rigid (although unstated) metaphysics of the professional philosopher he once was. Black Elk Speaks gives John Neihardt's perspective, he judges, not Black Elk's. The reason? It is a work of art and therefore creative rather than faithful to Black Elk's message. The logic suggests that Holler has no available category or place for narrative realism as a means of being both creative and truthful. And at the end, he explains Black Elk's paired religious convictions by attributing to him an apparent non-cognitivist model of religious language. But why not apply the less brittle notion of analogy to Black Elk, especially if one has just stressed (and rightly so) the holy man's deep concern with cognitive truth in reworking the Sun Dance?