Captured in the Middle: Tradition and Experience in Contemporary Native American Writing

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University of Washington Press, Apr 1, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 192 pages
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Sidner Larson's Captured in the Middle embodies the very nature of Indian storytelling, which is circular, drawing upon the personal experiences of the narrator at every turn. Larson teaches about contemporary American Indian literature by describing his own experiences as a child on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana and as a professor at the University of Oregon.

Larson argues that contemporary Native American literary criticism is stalled. On one hand are the scholars who portray Indians stereotypically, assuming that the experiences of all tribal groups have largely been the same. On the other hand are those scholars who focus on the "authenticity" of the writer. In contrast, Larson considers the scholarship of Vine Deloria, Jr., who has a genuine understanding of the balance required in dealing with these issues. Two writers who have successfully redescribed many of the contemporary romantic stereotypes are James Welch and Louise Erdrich, both northern Plains Indians whose works are markedly different, their writing highlighting the disparate ways tribal groups have responded to colonization.

Larson describes Indians today as postapocalyptic peoples who have already lived through the worst imaginable suffering. By confronting the issues of fear, suppression, and lost identity through literature, Indians may finally move forward to imagine and create for themselves a better future, serving as models for the similarly fractured cultures found throughout the world today.

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About the author (2001)

Thomas F. Thornton is associate professor of anthropology at Portland State University in Oregon.

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