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Understanding Gerald Vizenor

Deborah L. Madsen

An introduction to the radical native American writer's complex vocabulary and vision

Winner of the 1988 American Book Award for his novel Griever: An American Monkey King in China, Gerald Vizenor is a radical, even revolutionary, voice among contemporary Native American writers. Deborah L. Madsen offers a comprehensive overview of Vizenor's work in all literary genres, including poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction, as she explores the themes, images, and stylistic devices that define Vizenor's challenging and significant body of work.

In his critique of corporate greed and environmental devastation, of political incompetence and self-interest, and of the modern culture of simulation, celebrity, and hype, Vizenor consistently proves himself unafraid to prod and provoke his audience. He can also be a difficult writer for new readers, a result of to his use of an idiosyncratic vocabulary and the ironic, oppositional, or deconstructive stance he adopts in texts that resist easy comprehension. Madsen offers here points of entrance for scholars, students, and general readers into the complex vocabulary and vision of Vizenor's work.

Madsen begins by addressing the key contexts in which Vizenor's work may be interpreted: his biography, the Anishinabe tribal context of his thought, and the contemporary postmodern intellectual environment within which he writes. Madsen also explores her subject's neologisms, the complex lexicon he invents to convey his view of Native America. From there she highlights Vizenor's achievements in each of the major literary genres in which he writes— journalism, tribal history, cultural criticism, poetry, drama, and fiction—focusing on representative texts in each instance to provide detailed readings of Vizenor's distinctive style and language.

Deborah L. Madsen is a professor of American literature and culture at the University of Geneva. Her fifteen other books include Understanding Contemporary Chicana Literature, Native Authenticity: Transatlantic Approaches to Native American Literature, and Gerald Vizenor: Texts and Contexts. She coedits with Gerald Vizenor the SUNY Press book series Native Traces.



book jacket for Understanding Gerald Vizenor


5 x 7
216 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-856-3
cloth, $39.95s

Understanding Contemporary American Literature
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