Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 166-67.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


If, as James Cox argues, "the origin of colonialism is imaginative," and narrative "the force that sets colonialism in motion," then which stories have anchored Eurowestern colonialism? Conversely, what are the enduring stories of survivance and sovereignty that have sustained Native peoples through five hundred and more years of what Gerald Vizenor has termed "the word wars"? Taking as his premise that words create worlds, that stories carry within them "real world implications," Cox focuses his attention on half of his subtitle: Native American Novel Traditions. More specifically, he considers a prominent strand of this tradition: the artful revising and rei magining of colonizing texts of all kinds.

Beginning with his careful introduction, Cox singles out the "consistent flaw" characterizing much non-Native scholarship on Native American literatures: "lack of familiarity with tribal and Native intellectual contexts." By fore grounding this ongoing ignorance and dismissal of Native intellectuals, Cox makes clear his own critical stance. Rather than reproduce yet another text of "academic colonialism," he instead aligns himself with one of the most powerful movements in contemporary Native Studies: indigenous literary nationalism. He relies almost exclusively on Native critical sources while steering clear of "culturally specific beliefs and practices with which [he has] little, no, or only textual experience." By spelling out his "politics of location" within contemporary Native literary scholarship, Cox unifies his approach and subject: how narratives of absence disseminated throughout American popular and literary traditions can be exposed, overthrown, and re-presented.