Exploring Native American Culture through Conflicting Cultural Views: "Magical Realism" in Louise Erdrich’s "Tracks"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2009 39 Pages

American Studies - Literature




1.1 Telling histories: The oral tradition
1.2 The importance of the Native American Renaissance

2.1 Origin and history of the term
2.2 Towards a definition: Characteristics of magic realist literature

3.1 Two narrators = two versions of reality? It all depends on the perception of “truth” and “reality”
3.2 Enlisting the reader: Conflicting cultural views and untrustworthy narrators

CONCLUSION: Interpreting the magical in Tracks



Karen Louise Erdrich, born in Minnesota in 1954 as the eldest of seven children, was raised Catholic in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at the Wahpeton Indian Boarding School.[1] Her fiction reflects facets of her mixed heritage[2]: she is German-American by her father, as well as French and Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa or Anishinaabe[3] ) by her mother. Louise Erdrich left North Dakota in 1972 and entered Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where she met Michael Dorris, a mixed-blood Modoc Indian writer who founded the Native American Studies department at the college. Collaboratively, they published Route Two (1990) and The Crown of Columbus (1991). Erdrich and Dorris married in 1981, but were in the midst of divorce proceedings when he committed suicide in 1997. ”I knew that Michael was suicidal from the second year of our marriage,” Erdrich said in an interview.[4] The award-winning writer is considered to be one of the most significant Native American[5] novelists from the “second wave”[6] of what is called the Native American Renaissance (see chapter 1.2). She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe[7].

“No one knew yet how many were lost,

people kept no track.” (Tracks, p. 15)

Tracks (1988)

Erdrich’s novel Tracks, which is to be explored in the present argument, is the third part of an initially planned tetralogy, including Love Medicine (1984), The Beet Queen (1986), and The Bingo Palace (1994)[8]. Louise Erdrich created a novel cycle, exploring the lives of various generations of Chippewa family who live on a fictional reservation in North Dakota in the twentieth century, a time when Indian tribes were struggling to retain their remaining land. Chronologically speaking, it is the family’s earliest period—from 1912 to 1924—that is related in Tracks.[9]

In most of her works, Erdrich uses several characters to narrate alternating chapters, presenting a story that unfolds from multiple perspectives. Tracks is told retrospectively by two homodiegetic narrators: Pauline Puyat, a mixed-blood who denies her Indian “half” in order to be accepted into the convent and changes her name to Sister Leopolda, and Nanapush, an older Native American who tells his story to a named addressee, his granddaughter Lulu: “You were born on the day we shot the last bear, drunk, on the reservation.” (Tracks, p. 58)

Tracks is constructed (…) as mutually referential focalization, which is to say that Nana- push focalizes Pauline, Pauline focalizes Nanapush; they both tell the same story but dis- agree as to its interpretation.[10]

Despite the polarization of focalizers, the order of story and text follows the same chronology. The characters are shaped by the historical context they inhabit. They describe how traditional Native American culture was threatened by the Western world in several ways. Whole family units were destroyed by the sickness and only few survived, as Nanapush tells the reader:

We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. It was surprising there were so many of us left to die. For those who survived the spotted sickness from the south, our long fight west to Nadouissioux land where we signed the treaty, and then a wind from the east, bringing exile in a storm of government papers, what descended from the north in 1912 seemed impossible. (Tracks, p. 1)

At the beginning of the novel, Nanapush, Pauline, and Fleur (Lulu’s mother)—the three main characters—are the only surviving members of their families. At the end of the 19th century, Indian tribes were forced by laws—such as the Dawes Act, or the General Allotment Act (1887)[11] —to pay for their land, their means of life. If they could not afford to pay their lease, their land was distributed and sold.

Starvation makes fools of anyone. In the past, some had sold their allotment land for one hundred poundweights of flour. Others, who were desperate to hold on, now urged that we get together and buy back our land, or at least pay a tax and refuse the lumbering money that would sweep the marks of our boundaries off the map like a pattern of straws. (Tracks, p. 8)

The General Allotment Act, a body of laws, strived to achieve the total assimilation of the Indian civilization. Indian children, such as Lulu and Nector Kashpaw in the novel, were forced to go to established government schools, were they were supposed to convert and assimilate to Western cultural norms:[12]

She [Fleur] sent you [Lulu] to the government school, it is true, but you must understand there were reasons: there would be no place for you, no safety on this reservation, no hi- ding from government papers … (Tracks, p. 219)

The struggle to preserve the traditional Chippewa culture is literarily realized in the fi-gures of “Old Man” Nanapush and Pauline Puyat, who present their respective views on the central figure, Fleur Pillager. After losing her land, Fleur leaves the reservation at the end of Tracks. Fleur’s departure symbolizes the end of an era in the history of the Chippewa. Fleur and Pauline both produce descendants: Pauline gives birth to Marie, and Fleur to Lulu, Nanapush’s surrogate granddaughter, who he names Nanapush.

Louise Erdrich’s writing technique is often compared to the one William Faulkner (1867-1962) pioneered in As I Lay Dying (1930), a novel that is known for its multiple narrators (multiperspectival narrative situation) and stream of consciousness writing technique.[13] Louise Erdrich uses Western literary traditions to narrate Native American stories, employing magical elements that appear in the seemingly realistic setting of North Dakota.


Though writers seem to be inclined to refuse the label of magical realism —Erdrich, among them[14]Tracks is discussed as a magic realist novel as regards content and form, both of which contribute to the magical realist qualities of the novel. Critics often argued that magical realism is a narrative mode specific to a Latin American context, but this argument suggests that this mode is also employed in Louise Erdrich’s Tracks. The following chapters illustrate not only the functioning of the textual strategies and devices, but also the narrative perspective. As personal events in the novel are framed by a larger historical context, taking a look at the cultural history of Native Americans at some point is inevitable. Furthermore, the magical realist fiction’s depictions of the magical as real can only be understood within the framework of the “real” historical background.

In chapter 1, Native American literature and its specific attributes are examined. The significance of the oral tradition in the telling of history as well as the importance of the Native American Renaissance for Indian American literature will be discussed.

Chapter 2 defines and analyzes magical realism as a literary mode. The origin and history of the term (2.1) and characteristics of the narrative technique (2.2) are to be considered.

In chapter 3, the presented concepts are applied to Louise Erdrich’s Tracks. Aspects such as magical occurrences and elements, the narrative point of view, and the reader’s role in the fiction presented are discussed. As two very different first-person perspectives present their subjective version of “truth” within the novel, it has a fragmented narrative perspective, which begs to be constructed and re-constructed, and deserves to be examined. Both pictures of reality are meant to be placed on equal footing and the reader is forced to mediate between two conflicting cultural views and unreliable narrators.


The definition of the “Indian” within Native American Literature is inseparably connected to the definition of the “Indian” within American culture. Since the first European-American cultural contact, the definition and naming of “Indian” identity has been in European hands. The still persisting term “Indian” itself is based on Christopher Columbus’ historical misjudgement and subsequent mislabeling of the natives of “las Indias”.[15]

What is considered “Indian” is, in the end, a product of European and American imagination. When is literature “Indian” then? When the author is “Indian” enough? Or when he or she deals with sufficiently “Indian” topics? According to Kenneth Lincoln,

[o]ut of at least five hundred original cultures in North America (perhaps four to eight mil- lion peoples speaking 500 distinct languages), (…) 315 “tribes” remain in the United States alone. They comprise roughly 700,000 full-bloods, or “bloods”, in the reservation idiom; mixed-bloods, those with parents from different tribes; and “breeds,” those who have one non-Indian parent. There are probably another half-million part-Indian people who live as whites. The working definition of “Indian”, though criteria vary from region to region, is a person with at least one quarter Indian blood and tribal membership. Each tribe (…) can be traditionally defined through a native language, an inherited place, and a set of tra- ditions (speech, folklore, ceremony, and religion) a heritage passed from generation in songs, legends, jokes, morality plays, healing rituals, event histories, social protocol, spiri- tual rites of passage, and vision journies to the sacres world. These cultural traditions evolved before the Old World “discovered” the New World, and many have been adapted to changing circumstances and remain strong today.[16]

This definition of “Indianness” according to one’s blood brings to mind other minorities such as Afro-Americans, who were long considered as “persons of color” when they had any African black ancestry.[17] As Dagmar Wernitznig puts it:

Columbus encountered whom he expected to find: Indians, not Native Americans. – Indian- ness as a coincidental by-product of a European nautical error. (…)

Once supplanted to the Old World through human souvenirs like Pocahontas or travel re- ports, for example, exoticisms from the New World entailed an automatism of Indianness and autonomy of Indianism in European sound and vision. Particularly nineteenth-century, German-speaking audiences and authors relished a literary phantasmagoria of Indian- ness. (…) Even in times of iPod and Xbos, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, May’s Indian oeuvre continues to be a bestseller amongst child and teenage readers. (…) Several Ameri- can showmen, most prominently Buffalo Bill, catered to this European sensationalism about the ‘vanishing race.’[18]

1.1 Telling histories: The oral tradition

According to recent research, the Chippewa author George Copways is considered to be the first Indian writer of a volume of poems in English, The Ojibway Conquest (1850). Furthermore, he wrote one of the first tribal histories, The Traditional History and Cha-racteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation (1850). John Rollin Ridges, a Cherokee, is thought to be the first Indian novelist to have written in English with 1854’s Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta.[19] However, Native American literature does not, of course, begin in the 19th century, but with the verbal forms of expression of the first Americans.

What we consider Native American Literature or American Indian Literature today includes literature authored by Indians in written form, as well as traditions of indigenous tribal culture in North America that have been passed on orally.[20] Indigenous literature is understood to be derived from native oral tradition. As Helmbrecht Breinig points out,

Native American literature is part of the cultural processes alluded to. It functions as an instrument of the preservation of tradition, of providing orientation amidst the confusions of change, of the expression of grief about change and the loss of orientation, of anger about ongoing injustice, but also a representation of change, nay, as a means of accomplishing it.[21]

The term Native American Literature, however, was not used before Navarre Scott Momaday, a Kiowa writer, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for House Made of Dawn (1968) in 1969. Momaday argues that

American literature begins with the first human perception of the American landscape ex- pressed and preserved in language. Literature we take commonly to comprehend more than writing. If writing means visible constructions within a framework of alphabets, it is not more than six or seven thousand years old, we are told. Language, and in it the forma- tion of that cultural record which is literature, is immeasurably older. Oral tradition is the foundation of literature ... With respect to the oral tradition of the American Indian, these attitudes are reflected in the character of the songs and stories themselves. Perhaps the most distinctive and important aspect of that tradition is the way in which it reveals the singer’s and the storyteller’s respect for and belief in language. At the heart of the American Indian oral tradition is a deep and unconditional belief in the efficacy of language. Words are intrinsically powerful. They are magical. By means of words one can bring about phy- sical change in the universe.

(Navarre Scott Momaday: The Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages, pp. 15/16)

Kenneth Lincoln, Professor of American and Native American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), comments on the Native American belief in the power of words and in the importance of naming as follows:

Native Americans seem to believe that words make things happen. (…) The primacy of language interfuses people with their environment: an experience or object is inseparable from its name. And names allow us to see, as words image the spirits of things.”[22]

In Tracks, Nanapush notices the importance of passing his name on:

An old man had some relatives, got a chance to pass his name on, especially if the name was an important one like Nanapush.

My girl, listen well. Nanapush is a name that loses power every time that it is written and stored in a government file. That is why I only gave it out once in all those years.

No Name, I told Father Damien when he came to take the church census. No Name, I told the Agent when he made up the tribal roll. (Tracks, p. 32)

In contrast to Western societies, which transmit their knowledge such as history, literature, and law across generations using a writing system—at the very latest with the introduction of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in Europe in the fifteenth century—Native or Indian cultures rely largely on oral traditions to pass on their knowledge and values. With the exception of a few indigenous literatures, such as cave paintings, pictographic history recordings, or hieroglyphics, the knowledge and traditions of the tribal cultures of North America, including folklore, myths, and songs, were mostly transferred orally (“oral literatures”):

Except for the Mayans and the Aztecs, North American tribal peoples evolved without writ- ten languages, as oral cultures living mouth to mouth, age to age, passing on a daily culture. Their literatures survived as remembered myths and rituals, songs, poems, narrative tales, legends, and parables.[23]

Novels like Tracks mediate between the conflicting cultural discourses of Native American tradition of orality and the European literary, novelistic tradition. However, oral storytelling and literary production differ in a number of ways:

Oral stories tend to be told in a linear fashion. The events of the story are narrated in the order that they occurred. In a literary work it is not necessary to tell the events of the story in the same sequence as they occur. Often writers use the device of flashback or analepsis and slightly less frequently they employ the device of anticipation or prolepsis. Thus they can alter the focus on events to foreground some and relegate others to memories, past histories, filling in of information. And they can keep the reader engaged by occasional titillating anticipatory hints. All of this alters the reading experience to one in which the reader has to engage actively with the reconstruction-inviting strategies of the text.

Oral stories are told ‘in time’. They are performed or delivered to an audience, even if that is an audience of one or two only. Thus they have a duration which is the time it takes to tell them. Literary texts do not exist in time. They exist in space. They are material objects that the reader can pick up, put down, read in bits, read all at once, read fast, read very slowly. Readers can move back and forth in the text at their own will. Any sense of time in narrative is imagined, created in the reader’s mind through the devices of narration.[24]

Oral stories often contain “characters already know to the audience, so the information is assumed rather than a full description being given each time the character enters a new story”[25]. Louise Erdrich’s characters reappear throughout her novel cycle, and Helen May Dennis regards her as an exception, since she reproduces

some of the characteristics of oral storytelling at the level of plot in terms of recirculation of characters and stories from one novel to the next. Paradoxically, her work at times also seems closest to European novelistic preoccupations, in her almost Proustian obsession with memory.[26]

Oral traditions unite the tribal people and have the function of memory. In Tracks, the title is used as a leitmotif, occurring every now and again: “No one knew yet how many were lost, people kept no track.” (Tracks, p. 15) The reader is asked to find out what is meant by that. Do they not leave tracks because they do not pass on written histories?

1.2 The importance of the Native American Renaissance

From the beginning of white colonization, Indians represented the “wild nature” in contrast to the “civilized culture” of the Western world. Their literature was labeled “minority literature”, meaning literature from non-whites (cp. Hispanic, African, and Asian American literature) written in English.

A minority literature often mixes what is unfamiliar to the majority culture with what is familiar. It thus provides not only an organization of experience different from that of the majority culture (and of other minorities) but also an interactive organization. A minority literature often negotiates for its own identity with the majority culture and constantly redefines itself, ultimately bringing the majority culture to define itself more adequately, too.[27]

As Western thoughts are closely linked to Christian values, attempts were made to convert Indians, apart, of course, from the efforts made to drive out and decimate whole Indian tribes. In 1656, the Harvard Indian College was founded in order to train Indian missionaries. Consequently, it is not surprising that Native Americans in the 18th and beginning 19th century first wrote sermons and religious texts in English[28]. The autobiography, mostly a Christian-oriented, orally narrated life story, was one of the most important forms of expression for writing Indians in the 19th century.[29] The education of Native Americans was linked to the hope that schooling them in white culture would “uplift” the tribes, as they were long seen as “noble savages”.

The Indian Bureau was first established in 1824 as part of the War Department. Despite their cultural and geographical diversities, Native Americans are aligned on one point: they are the only ethnic group in this nation that the United States has warred against and made treaties with – 389 broken treaties.[30]

The Indian Removal Act of 1830, passed under President Andrew Jackson, paved the way for the emigration of thousands of Native Americans west of the Mississippi to satiate the American hunger for land. In the 1850s, Indian reservations were established, and an assimilation policy was dominant until the 1930s. In 1911, the Society of American Indians was finally formed, an organization that demanded rights equal to those of whites.[31] Native Americans were only granted citizenship in 1924—the year in which Tracks ends. The tribes were finally officially recognized as cultures, whose traditions were worth being preserved. However, Native nations and peoples were regarded as sovereigns before, inasmuch as

between 1607 and 1775 the Crown and the various colonies entered into at least 185 treaties with Indian peoples […], treating them as sovereign political entities, if only to limit their sovereignty”. (…) Once the United States achieved its own independent existence as a “sovereign political entity”, for almost one hundred years, from 1776 until 1871 (when Congress ended the treaty-making practice), it continued to enter into nation-to-nation treaties with the tribes.[32]

After being recognized as citizens, Indians underwent a significant change regarding their living circumstances. “In the 1940 Census, a little over half of all Americans (56.5 percent) were living in cities. In 1940, only around 8 percent of Indians were living in cities.”[33] As is generally known, a disproportionately high number of Indian citizens were involved in World War II as soldiers. After the war, many Indians migrated from their reservations to the urban cities, or were relocated to cities in accordance with Urban Relocation Programs, set up by the U.S. government in 1952.


[1] Cp. Catherine Rainwater (2005): “Louise Erdrich’s storied universe”, in: The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature. Edited by Joy Porter & Kenneth M. Roemer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 271.

[2] In the following, terms such as “mixed”, “mixed-blood”, “multiracial”, “cross-blood” “bi-racial”, and “half-breed” are used to describe people whose ancestries come from different “racial groups”, referring to the general concept of categorizing humans into groups on the basis of (mostly visible) traits like skin color, facial features and hair texture. In general, the term “half-breed” is widely used to describe people of mixed Native American and white European parentage in particular, whereas “mixed-bloods” have parents from different tribes.

[3] “To end any confusion, the Ojibwe and Chippewa are not only the same tribe, but the same word pronounced a little differently due to accent. If an “O” is placed in front of Chippewa (O’chippewa), the relationship becomes apparent.” in: “Ojibwe history”, http://www.tolatsga.org/ojib.html (Page view: 26.12.2008). – Jeanne Armstrong argues that Nanapush uses the term “Anishinaabe” for his people whereas Pauline uses “Chippewa”. In: Jeanne Armstrong (2000): “Tracks”, in: Demythologizing the Romance of Conquest. Contributions to the Study of World Literature, Number 100. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 37. – I will use all three terms synonymously, although Ojibwa and Chippewa are apparently the colonists’ names for the Anishina(a)be.

[4] Rick Lyman (April 18, 1997): “Writer’s Death Brings Plea For Respect, Not Sensation”, in: The New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05E4DC113FF93BA25757C0A961958260# (Page view: 07.12.2008).

[5] In the argument at hand, the terms “Native American”, “American Indian”, and “indigenous” literature, culture etc. are used synonymously and refer to the pre-Columbian inhabitants of America and their descendants as well as to their culture. In contrast, “American” is meant to describe US American literature, culture etc. only, and does not include Latin, South American, and Canadian culture.

[6] “The publication in 1984 of Love Medicine marks the beginning of what some call the “second wave” of a Native American literary renaissance that commenced in the late 1960s with works by N. Scott Momaday, Gerald Vizenor, James Welch, and Leslie Marmon Silko.”, in: Rainwater (2005), p. 272.

[7] cp. LOUISE ERDRICH (1988): Tracks, Introduction “About the Author”. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Please note that primary literature is acknowledged in the text itself from now on.

[8] Louise Erdrich had announced that she would conclude her novel series with The Bingo Palace, but is extremely productive and keeps continuing her series with further novels. Among them are Tales of Burning Love (1996), The Antelope Wife (2001), The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001), Four Souls (2005), The Master Butchers Singing Club (2005), The Game of Silence (2006), The Painted Drum (2006), The Porcupine Year (2008), and The Plague of Doves (2008). In 2009, The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008, a volume of short stories, will be published. (cp. http://ww.harpercollins.com, page view: 28.12.2008)

[9] Four Souls starts where Tracks ends: in 1924. Love Medicine covers the years 1934 to 1984. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse begins in 1996, and so forth.

[10] Helen May Dennis (2007): “Narrative authority in the Ozhibi’ganan novels”, in: Native American Literature: Towards a spatialized reading. London: Routledge, p. 166.

[11] The Dawes Act of 1887 (named after Senator Dawes) was responsible for the allotment of “tribal lands” to individuals and changed the reservation policy significantly. It aimed at absorbing tribe members into the larger national society. In this way, the reservation area was reduced and land was given to white settlers. This policy continued until 1934, when it was terminated by the Indian Reorganization Act, the so-called “Indian New Deal”. – Nanapush comments on the buying of land as follows: “Dollar bills cause the memory to vanish, and even fear can be cushioned by the application of government cash.” (Tracks, p. 174)

[12] Attendance in Indian boarding schools generally grew throughout the first half of the twentieth century and doubled in the 1960s. Enrollment reached its highest point in the 1970s.

[13] As I Lay Dying is told by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. Faulkner uses a series of first-person perspectives. Most of his works are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, his home state. – The stream of consciousness writing technique is often referred to as free indirect discourse.

[14] “This whole question of surrealism, magic realism. I think there are certain Native people who are able to communicate with something I don’t understand. That is the mystery, the enigma. I think the humility of people who make that connection is what really impresses me,” in: Mark Anthony Rolo (April 2002): “Louise Erdrich – The Progressive Interview”, in: The Progressive, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1295/is_4_66/ai_84866888 (Page view: 11.12.2008).

[15] The Spanish continued to use the term “las Indias” to refer to the continent of America until the 18th century. “The so-called settlement of America was a resettlement, a reoccupation of a land made waste by the diseases and demoralization introduced by the newcomers.” in: Kenneth Lincoln (1982): “Native American Literatures: ‘old like hills, like stars’”, in: Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of American Literature. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, p. 84. – In his Diario del primer viaje, Columbus wrote on 11 October 1492: “Mas me pareçió que era gente muy pobre de todo.”

[16] Lincoln (1982), p. 80; own accentuation.

[17] “To be considered black in the United States not even half of one’s ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation’s answer to the question ‘Who is black?’ has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the ‘one-drop rule’, meaning that a single drop of ‘black blood’ makes a person a black. It is also known as the ‘one black ancestor rule’, some courts have called it the ‘traceable amount rule’, and anthropologists call it the ‘hypo-descent rule’, meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group.”, in: F. James Davis (1991): “The One-Drop Rule Defined”, Excerpt from “Who is Black? One Nation’s Definition”, Pennsylvania University Press,

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.html (Page view: 04.01.2009). – As is generally known, races are categories for human beings based on differences in physical traits which are transmitted by genes, and not by blood – a fact that makes such assignments of people to races even more absurd.

[18] Dagmar Wernitznig (2007): Europe’s Indians, Indians in Europe. European Perceptions and Appropriations of Native American Cultures from Pocahontas to the Present. Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., pp. v-vii (Preface).

[19] Cp. Brigitte Georgi-Findlay (2004): “Indianische Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts: Anpassung und Protest”, in: Amerikanische Literaturgeschichte. Second Edition. Edited by Hubert Zapf. Stuttgart/Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, pp. 391/392.

[20] Cp. Georgi-Findlay (2004), “Indianische Literatur”, p. 387.

[21] Helmbrecht Breinig (2003): “Introduction: Culture, Economy and Identity Locations – Representations of Difference and Transdifference”, in: Imaginary (Re-) Locations. Tradition, Modernity, and the Market in Contemporary Native American Literature and Culture. Edited by Helmbrecht Breinig. Tuebingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, p. 22.

[22] Lincoln (1982), p. 92.

[23] Lincoln (1982), p. 88.

[24] Helen May Dennis (2007): Native American Literature: Towards a spatialized reading. London: Routledge, p. 3. Walter J. Ong’s work, Orality and Literacy, is regarded as classic.

[25] Dennis (2007), p. 4.

[26] Dennis (2007), p. 4.

[27] Walter J. Ong (1982): “Introduction: On Saying We and Us to Literature”, in: Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of American Literature. Edited by Houston A. Baker, Jr. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, p. 3.

[28] Samson Occom’s A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian (1772) is considered to be the first text of this kind of religious literature. It marks the beginning of published Native texts in English. Apart from that, “the first major Native American novel, mixed-blood D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded was rejected by several publishers before it was finally published in 1936.”, in: Breinig (2003), p. 23.

[29] Cp. Georgi-Findlay (2004): “Indianische Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts: Anpassung und Protest”, p. 389/390.

[30] Lincoln (1982), p. 84.

[31] Cp. Georgi-Findlay (2004): “Indianische Literatur 1900-1960: Von den Red Progressives zur Red Power”, pp. 393/394.

[32] Arnold Krupat (2003): “Nationalism, Indigenism, Cosmopolitanism: Three Critical Perspectives on Native American Literatures”, in: Imaginary (Re-) Locations Tradition, Modernity, and the Market in Contemporary Native American Literature and Culture. Edited by Helmbrecht Breinig. Tuebingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, p. 88.

[33] Cp. “The Urban Relocation Program”, in: Indian Country Diaries, September 2006, httpI://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/history/relocate.html (Page view: 02.01.2009).


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Humboldt-University of Berlin – Department of English and American Studies
Native American Literature Native American Culture Magical Realism Louise Erdrich Tracks oral tradition Native American Renaissance magic realist literature perception of "truth" and "reality" enlisting the reader conflicting cultural views Indian Indianness magic realism Ojibwa Chippewa Anishinaabe native american renaissance




Title: Exploring Native American Culture through Conflicting Cultural Views: "Magical Realism" in Louise Erdrich’s "Tracks"