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Modernist Literary Studies and the Aesthetics of American Indian Literatures

American Indian literary studies and mainstream modernist studies haunt each other. But for the most part, neither dares to face its ghost in the mirror. This essay sets out to provoke more thinking about the relation between American Indian literary studies and modernist studies and to invite critics to reconsider both fields in light of their parallel languages and polemics. As modernist studies begins to face the indigeneity it has neglected or trampled over, critics risk overlooking how theories of modernism are already embedded in the theories and criticism of American Indian literatures. In that context, modernist studies risks recovering an indigeneity that reproduces the modernism we already know. This essay—written from the perspective of someone who is a scholar of US modernist fiction and poetry and a scholar of American Indian fiction and poetry—therefore asks what we can see in American Indian literary modernism that mainstream modernism has not already absorbed into its colonialist fantasy of cultural manifest destiny. Specifically, I will argue that the antidote to modernist cultural manifest destiny lies not in Indigenous aesthetics per se, but in the intersection of Indigenous and modernist aesthetics with Indigenous lands and peoples. In that way, I ask us to see Indigenous aesthetics not as prediscursive gold or minerals, ripe for more appropriation and theft, but as alternative survivances (to use a term from the Anishinaabe writer and theorist Gerald Vizenor) in a post-contact landscape of ongoing and inevitable intersectional exchange.[1]

Recursive Crossings

American Indian literary studies and mainstream modernist studies often define themselves in parallel languages and polemics, without either acknowledging its embeddedness in its repressed other.[2] Both have defined their distinctiveness through non-linearity and circular patterns, destabilizing models of time and space, rising nationalism, rising internationalism, orality (whether precolonial, or appropriative retro-primitivist—or both), performance, gendered crossings, a recursive recycling of and by popular culture, interracial and inter-ethnic crossings, recycling and modernizing ancient myth, and, at the same time, making it new.

Such claims in American Indian studies reproduce mainstream modernist reading practices at least as much as they describe objective fact in Native writings. To be sure, it is not unusual for claims about the distinctiveness of a given body of art to draw on the conceptual and aesthetic vocabulary of that art and yet to read it, to make it more visible or, in Jacques Rancière’s term, more sensible, more apprehensible, by trading on the contemporary elite aesthetics that it supposedly differs from. Such claims then lead to an unwittingly tautological validation of difference masked as similarity, and similarity masked as difference, which in turn may also mask more material differences in the represented peoples and their relation to land.[3] In short, Native aesthetics as we envision it today is often a product of modernity and postmodernity as well as an opposition to modernity and postmodernity. We can understand the agency of indigeneity for modernism better if we recognize that the terms we imagine it through are often already modernist, even though its modernism is, recursively, partly a product of indigeneity. Native peoples, artists, and writers in the age of modernity do not have to swallow modernity whole, but they still live within it. Modernity—and its dialogue with modernism—are almost inescapable. So is indigeneity inescapable.

An Epistemology of Modernist Oblivion

There is no space in modernity independent of indigeneity. There is only a space of not knowing you address indigeneity, and therefore mucking things up. All of us on this continent stand or sit, at this moment, on Indigenous land. Modernist literature and art allude incessantly to indigeneity, both knowingly (even though usually inaccurately, clouded by needy fantasies or guilt-ridden denials) and unknowingly.

Presumably, the people at the Modernist Studies Association conference who came to the panel on “Indigenous Modernisms” (organized by Stephen Ross and Michael Tavel Clarke), where a shorter version of this essay was presented as a talk, were not a representative group of MSA members. But without actually asking for a show of hands, I wondered out loud how many people coming to Columbus, Ohio for the conference thought about coming to the lands of the Wyandot, Miami, Shawnee, and other Native nations and peoples. And I wondered how many coming to the conference would even imagine the possibility of say, William Walker, a Wyandot chief and Ohio postmaster, later the first governor of the Nebraska Territory, who went to Kenyon College and spoke or studied Wyandot, English, Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Potawatomi, Greek, Latin, and French, writing English-language poems in the 1820s and after about the pain of losing Wyandot land in Ohio to American theft.[4]

An obliviousness to Indigenous peoples, therefore, does not mark an absence of Indigenous peoples. Oblivion is a form of allusion to what it does not see, an unrecognized form of citation and dependence. As Olivia Ward Bush-Banks, a Montaukett and African American poet, put it as she addressed whites in the identical opening and closing stanzas of a poem she published in 1914,

We suffer and ye know it not,

Nor yet can ever know,

What depth of bitterness is ours,

Or why we suffer so.[5]

Over a hundred years later, then, it is easy, but still necessary, to lament the obliviousness to Indigenous cultures and cultural productions (as opposed to mere fantasies of Indigenous cultures), to lament what Bush-Banks calls the “know it not” in mainstream modernist literature and mainstream modernist studies.

For example, near the end of As I Lay Dying (1930), when Darl Bundren descends into a cubist mosaic of disaggregated free association, tying his obsessive fear of feminine sexuality and his trauma over his family’s violently forcing him to an insane asylum to his memory of going to France in World War I, he thinks, “A nickel has a woman on one side and a buffalo on the other.”[6] But in fact the so-called buffalo or Indian head nickel then circulating had no woman on either side. It had a buffalo on one side and the head of a stereotypically noble Indian man on the other side. I have never seen any critic mention Darl’s erasure of the Indian presence already erased by the coin’s stereotype. Coins in modernity, like Indian people in the modernist United States and the modernist American canon, circulate everywhere while their ubiquity makes them paradoxically invisible to most mainstream spenders and readers. As people spend, they look without seeing, which thus defines an epistemology of modernist oblivion.

In 1921, Omaha nation teacher and activist Leta V. Meyers Smart published a poem called “On a Nickel” in The Tomahawk, an Anishinaabe newspaper, about noticing “for the first time” that “the Indian face” on the nickel seems to stare at the word “Liberty” floating on the circumference of the nickel “With hopeful expression me thought / Upon his face,” even though “the Indian / Has not known” the liberty that she pretends to think he stares at.[7] In effect, Smart defamiliarizes the nickel. She makes readers see what they likely looked at before without seeing it (fig. 1). When they see anew, readers see the Indian man’s face juxtaposed with the ideal of liberty, which brings into relief the irony that the coining nation denies him liberty and denies it to the Indian peoples that his stereotypically noble image misrepresents. Just as most nickel spenders cannot see his face, even while they look at it, so Smart’s poems—like Walker’s poems and Bush-Banks’s poems—barely reached the threshold of the sensible, the threshold of literary history that might lead us to remember them.

 The buffalo or Indian head nickel, rear, 1920
Fig. 1. The buffalo or Indian head nickel, 1920. Courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

The Aesthetics of Non-Linearity

And so the erasure of indigeneity takes place through the denial of Indigenous land ownership, Indigenous modernist writing, Indigenous people, and Indigenous aesthetics. Let us return, therefore, to the earlier list of parallels between canonical literary modernism and Native American literatures, this time naming examples for each category, starting with the parallel claims of American Indian literary studies and modernist literary studies for a distinctive epistemology and aesthetics of non-linearity or circular patterns. Such an aesthetic supposedly authorizes, for example, the non-linear plots of Osage John Joseph Mathews’s 1934 novel Sundown and Laguna Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1977 late-modernist novel Ceremony, as well as (as a Modernist Studies Association audience hardly needs reminding) such high modernist icons as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

Nationalism and Transnationalism

Many recent critics have also argued for reading Native American literatures as the literatures of specific Native nations, even as the rise of nationalism seems like a distinguishing characteristic of global modernity. Before contact, and in the early years of contact, Indigenous and European models of nationalism and sovereignty did not derive from or match each other. Moreover, many models of nationalism, especially European models, are complicit with colonialism and imperialism. Because modern and contemporary Native American nations typically connect their sovereignty to federal treaties, their nationality—like it or not—is embedded in a colonialist structure. Indeed, as Frantz Fanon argued, Indigenous peoples cannot recover the precolonialist past.[8] Indigenous politicians, artists, and writers, we might say, can’t put the colonialist toothpaste back in its tube. At the same time, amid the constraints of colonialist history, Native nations actively construct their own sovereignty and nationality, for better and for worse, and their literatures engage with and contribute to that ongoing work of constructing nationhood. Therefore, a Native literary studies that does not keep Native nationalism in sight risks turning interpretation into an agent of recolonizing.

At the same time, as modernist studies in recent years has strived to face the internationalism of modernism, so Native American studies and Native American popular culture, sometimes under the umbrella of expressions like “all my relatives,” have embraced Indigenous internationalism, ranging from powwow, to transnational Indigenous studies, to the collective study, in scholarship and the classroom, of the literatures of many Native nations.[9] Mathews’s portrayal of Osage life in the 1920s and 1930s includes the intertribal Native American Church and its displacement of traditional Osage religion. We can read Okanagan Mourning Dove’s 1927 novel Cogewea, the Half-Blood together with Salish Kootenai D’Arcy McNickle’s 1936 novel The Surrounded, two novels from different Native nations corralled by colonialism onto the same reservation, the Flathead reservation in Montana.

Indeed, many early twentieth-century Native American writers made a point of writing about Native nations other than their own. In 1913, Yankton Sioux writer and musician Zitkala-Ša staged her cowritten The Sun Dance Opera with Shoshone as well as Sioux lead characters, and with Uintay-Ouray Ute cast members performing Ute songs and dances. Some of the major (if still almost unknown) Native poets of the 1920s wrote transnationally, about both their own and other nations. The Wyandot Hen-toh published four poems about other Native peoples: “A Mojave Lullaby,” “Pontiac” (about the Odawa [Ottawa] war chief who led a rebellion against the British in 1763–1766), “A Desert Memory” (about Hopis), and “A Song of a Navajo Weaver.” Cherokee Ruth Margaret Muskrat published a poem called “The Apache Reservation,” and Cherokee Lynn Riggs published a poem about a Pueblo corn dance. In another vein of the transnational, Choctaw Mary Cornelia Hartshorne published poems about Ireland and Mexico.[10]

Writing the Oral

From The Surrounded to late-modernist novels like Kiowa N. Scott Momaday’s 1968 House Made of Dawn and Silko’s Ceremony, Indian literary studies has also celebrated the weaving of orality and traditional oral storytelling into written fiction, much as modernist studies has celebrated the aesthetics of the oral in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the poetry of Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, Faulkner’s fiction, Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, and Zora Neale Hurston’s fiction and ethnography. Similarly, Indian literary studies has celebrated the speech-saturated, so-called dialect writing of Mvscogee poet and political humorist Alex Posey and could also celebrate the similarly colloquial but barely known 1920s poetry of Hen-toh.[11] Posey and Hen-toh merged local Native English with the Old Southwestern and late nineteenth-century regionalist immersion in colloquial speech, most famously realized by Mark Twain, Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley newspaper columns, and the poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, all antecedents of the modernist preoccupation with literary perspective. Here again, then, each body of literature has characteristics that might seem to define it, even while it shares those characteristics with the other body of literature, and even while critics usually read each literature separately from the other.

Gendered Crossings

Similarly, gendered crossings play as defining a role in Native American literature of the time as they do in canonical modern and modernist writing. When Elise LaRose, for example, a tradition-scorning young Salish in The Surrounded, drinks, smokes, swears, and takes the erotic initiative in going after the male protagonist, reviewers horrified by the crossing of genders complained that Hemingway’s crass flappers had contaminated an Indian novel (though that sounds good to me).[12] In similar fashion, the seeming excess (in some eyes) of female initiative in Cogewea and the paucity of male initiative in Sundown has characterized Cogewea as feminist romance and Sundown as incipiently queer, making the two novels analogues to and contributors to modern fictions of genre and modernist fictions of gender.[13] Meanwhile, the closeted gay angst in Cherokee Lynn Riggs’s celebrated plays and subtle, little-known but remarkable poems offers a pained mirror image of Elise’s extroverted heterosexual exuberance.[14]

Popular Culture: The Example of Dance

Popular culture helps propel contemporary Native writing, as we might expect, but it also helped propel modernist Native writing. Modernist Native novelists and poets, for example, frequently wrote about dance. Dance blurs the boundaries across at least three arenas: popular dance, which overlaps with consumer culture; high modernist elite dance, which can be popular; and traditional Native dance, which is often popular among Native peoples but is not traditionally part of consumer culture, and which consumer culture threatens to colonize. Sundown and The Surrounded pose boundary-crashing analogies and conflicts between traditional Native dances and contemporary white and African American dances. In 1926, Penobscot dancer Molly Spotted Elk (the stage name of Molly Alice Nelson) took notes in her diary about her reading of Joyce (“master of synthesis”) and Proust (“master of dissociation”) and wrote a poem about the Texas chorus she danced in: “We are the famous Aztec Girls / You’ve heard so much about.” The poem’s catalog of Aztec Girls, or “We Moderns,” as Spotted Elk calls them, reads like a modernist census. They come from Russia, St. Louis, England, New York, San Antonio, and the Penobscot Reservation in Maine.[15] Like Nelson/Spotted Elk with her two names, they are all at once pop cultural, Native, and appropriatingly faux Native, and no less any one of those because they are also the others.

Meanwhile, in 1930 Cherokee and Chickasaw dancer Elise Seaton published a poem called “Orientale” about the Russian modernist Ballets Russes. Her poem’s opening lines,


Splotches duller than the

Sounding of the cymbals and the

Thumping of the tom-tom

bring the American-Indian associated “tom-tom” to “the whirling” Russian modernism of Sergei Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky, and choreographer Michel Fokine’s legendarily modernist ballet Les Orientales.[16] Eight years earlier, in 1922, Langston Hughes’s poem “Danse Africaine” anticipated the lingo of Seaton’s poem, with a similar French title and the same images of beating tom-toms and “whirling” dancers.[17]

Witter Bynner, not as well-known today but once a point person for literary modernism in Santa Fe and the United States Southwest, as well as a friend of D. H. Lawrence and the model for a character in Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent (1926), wrote a series of poems in the 1920s about Pueblo dances, including a 1924 poem in the Nation about a Santo Domingo buffalo dance.[18] In April 1926, Bynner’s Cherokee friend Riggs published his related poem about a Santo Domingo corn dance, also in the Nation, and then in November 1926, Hughes, who had never been to New Mexico, published a poem called “A House in Taos” that invites comparison to Rigg’s poem.[19] Riggs’s “Santo Domingo Corn Dance” begins this way:

The Chorus

“Bring rain,

As we bring now

Our gift of dance and song

To You—who dance not, nor sing—

Bring rain!” (Changing, 344–45)

Hughes’s “A House in Taos” begins with a section called “Rain,” which has four short stanzas, the first three beginning with and the fourth ending with the words “Thunder of the Rain God” (Collected Poems, 80–81). Hughes’s poem never directly mentions dance, but from its opening lines it parallels Riggs’s portrayal of northern New Mexico rain, sun, and Pueblo religion.

Mathews’s Sundown rounds out this circle another way, taking it back to Russian dance, by describing two conflicting crossings between Osage dance and modernism. Chal Windzer, the anxious Osage protagonist of Sundown, watches with disgust as a visiting Ponca dancer desecrates an Osage dance with pop African American and white infusions:

He stamped and twisted, and jerked his head fantastically; he did the black bottom, the Charleston, and other clownish tricks until Chal looked away in disgust, but he could hear murmurs of approval from the [white] visitors on the benches. The Ponca had been on the vaudeville stage, and he knew how to please white people. Chal knew that his People didn’t like to have visiting Indians desecrate their dance, but they retained their ancient courtesy and would say nothing to the Poncas about it.[20]

But Chal also “remembered having seen a Russian dancer sit through one whole afternoon, fascinated by the dance of his people, and ever after that he had had a very warm feeling toward that particular dancer” (Sundown, 253). Rather than see his people’s dance degraded by modernist popular culture, Chal—not free from ideologies of race and class—prefers to see how Osage dance can inspire high modernist admiration and respect.

Against the Nostalgia for Lost Origins: Reconstructing Difference and Sameness

Such mixings—in this case Osage, Ponca, US, and Russian as well as Black and white, ancient and contemporary, and pop and elite—are norms misread as exceptions. Each cultural opposition does more than just oppose or filter its other. Recursively, it also produces and is produced by its other, an other that was always already produced and re-produced by a long series of previous cultural oppositions denied by the ways that the binary presumptions of contemporary cultural memory trade on what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak calls the “nostalgia for lost origins.”[21] As a collection of diverse peoples and nations who have long understood themselves culturally more than racially, Native America necessarily made a literary legacy every-which-way integrated with racial and ethnic crossings that seem more feared or fetishized in mainstream modernism, with its self-congratulatory bravado about expatriate sophistication and appropriative “primitivism.” Oklahoma Choctaw Todd Downing, by contrast, wields a lighter internationalist touch in his 1930s mystery novels set in Mexico with a US Treasury agent as investigator. Meanwhile, McNickle, Momaday, and Silko each ground their field-defining first and most acclaimed novels in a contemporary recovery of ancient, orally-transmitted myth that makes Native myth conspicuously written and new in a modernist form that parallels, and arguably critiques, the celebrated mythical method of Ulysses, The Waste Land, and The Cantos.[22]

All these overlaps and parallels offer more grist for already active modernist studies mills. But my goal here is not to “discover” Native literatures for modernist studies, like Columbus discovering the Americas, nor to reduce Native literature for modernist studies to what Spivak calls “information retrieval.”[23] Instead, I ask Native American literary studies to ponder, intersectionally, the near inevitability that claims for the distinctiveness of Native literature will breathe the air of the colonializing literary modernism that we often wish to define Native literature against. As Fanon argued, anticolonialist claims for subaltern distinctiveness feed off a colonialist-created desire for essential difference.[24] That is not to say that Native literature has no difference or is not Native. It is to argue, instead, that we need to break from the way of reading that imagines indigeneity as separate from and previous to modernism and postmodernism—or for that matter, separate from and previous to colonialism, imperialism, transnationalism, and globalization. Just as the possibility for American Indians to see themselves as American Indians cannot preexist contact, so the possibility for American Indian literature to be American Indian depends not on separation from but instead on intersectionality with other literatures, so that difference and sameness will always inhabit each other. The consequences of such a claim for Indigenous studies then match a parallel and overlapping consequence for modernist studies. Claims for the distinctiveness of modernism come dressed in the emperor-colonialist’s new clothes, transparently masking that such claims depend on a denial of a multiplicity in land, writing, people, and aesthetics that is not utterly other but instead is constitutive of a modernist disaggregation that helps define modernism itself.


[1] Gerald Vizenor, Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994).

[2] See Kirby Brown’s critique of modernist studies’ characteristic neglect of American Indian literatures: “American Indian Modernities and New Modernist Studies’ ‘Indian Problem,’” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 59, no. 3 (2017): 287–318.

[3] See Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, trans. and ed. Gabriel Rockhill (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).

[4] For Walker’s life and poems “Oh, give me back my bended bow” and “The Wyandot’s Farewell,” see Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930, ed. Robert Dale Parker (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 64–66. Despite his sympathetic poems, Walker was no angel. He went on to hold people in slavery and to oppose abolition, though he sided with the United States during the Civil War.

[5] Olivia Ward Bush-Banks, “Heart-Throbs,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing, 221–22. For all Bush-Banks’s known writing, see The Collected Works of Olivia Ward Bush-Banks, ed. Bernice F. Guillaume (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[6] William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 254.

[7] Leta V. Meyers Smart, “On a Nickel,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing, 306. For a more extended reading of “On a Nickel,” see Robert Dale Parker, “The Multiplicity of Early American Indian Poetry,” in Cambridge History of Native American Literature, ed. Melanie Benson Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020).

[8] See Frantz Fanon, “On National Culture,” in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 1963), 145–80.

[9] The landmark works that crystallized this movement are Craig S. Womack, Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and Jace Weaver, Craig Womack, and Robert Warrior, American Indian Literary Nationalism (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006). See also LeAnne Howe’s influential theory of “tribalography”: “The Story of America: A Tribalography,”in Clearing a Path: Theorizing the Past in Native American Studies, ed. Nancy Shoemaker (New York: Routledge, 2002), 29–48. Nationalist studies sometimes oppose their approaches to Arnold Krupat’s (mid-career) focus on cosmopolitanism and Louis Owen’s focus—influenced by Gerald Vizenor—on hybridity. See Arnold Krupat, The Voice in the Margin: Native American Literature and the Canon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); Arnold Krupat, Ethnocriticism: Ethnography, History, Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Arnold Krupat, Red Matters: Native American Studies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); Louis Owens, Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992); and Louis Owens, Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998). Many critics have taken up the invitation to focus on the literature of specific Native nations, while others (or sometimes the same critics in different contexts), such as Shari M. Huhndorf and Chadwick Allen, take a more international or transnational approach. See, for example, Shari M. Huhndorf, Mapping the Americas: The Transnational Politics of Contemporary Native Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009); Chadwick Allen, Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); and Jace Weaver,The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000–1927 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). On contemporary Indigenous theorizations of sovereignty, see Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination, ed. Joanne Barker (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005).

[10] Zitkala-Ša, Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and The Sun Dance Opera, ed. P. Jane Hafen (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001). For Hen-toh, see Changing Is Not Vanishing, 257–280. A relative of William Walker, the poet of forced removal from a hundred years earlier, Hen-toh was also known as Bertrand N. O. Walker. He included most of his poems in Bertrand N. O. Walker, Yon-doo-shah-we-ah (Nubbins) (Oklahoma City, OK: Harlow, 1924). See Changing Is Not Vanishing for Muskrat (320–30), Riggs (342–55), and Hartshorne (376–82).

[11] For Posey, see Alexander Lawrence Posey, The Fus Fixico Letters, ed. Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Carol A. Petty Hunter (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993). For Posey’s poetry, see Changing Is Not Vanishing, 156–76 and Alexander Lawrence Posey, Song of the Oktahutche: Collected Poems, ed. Matthew Wynn Sivils (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008).

[12] See Robert Dale Parker, The Invention of Native American Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 76.

[13] Critics of Sundown were not quick to notice and address its queerness. For queer readings, see Parker, The Invention of Native American Literature 19–50, esp. 35–38; Michael Snyder, “‘He certainly didn’t want anyone to know that he was queer’: Chal Windzer’s Sexuality and John Joseph Mathews’s Sundown,Studies in American Indian Literatures 20, no. 1 (2008): 27–54; and Mark Rifkin, Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 95–128.

[14] See Womack, Red on Red, 271–303.

[15] Bunny McBride, Molly Spotted Elk: A Penobscot in Paris (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 77; Molly Spotted Elk (Molly Alice Nelson), “We’re in the Chorus Now,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing, 373–74. (Thank you again to Siobhan Senier, who first called my attention to Molly Spotted Elk.)

[16] Elise Seaton, “Orientale,” in Changing is Not Vanishing, 388.

[17] Langston Hughes, “Danse Africaine,” The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, ed. Arnold Rampersad (New York: Knopf, 1995), 28.

[18] See Witter Bynner, “A Buffalo Dance at Santo Domingo,” The Nation, September 24, 1924, 310–11.

[19] See Lynn Riggs, “Santo Domingo Corn Dance,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing, 344–46 (originally published in The Nation, April 14, 1926, 407) and Langston Hughes, “A House in Taos,” Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, 80–81. Bynner collected his Pueblo dance poems in Indian Earth (New York: Knopf), a 1929 volume dedicated to Lawrence (and based partly on travels with Lawrence) that his biographer calls his best book of poems (see James Kraft, Who Is Witter Bynner? A Biography [Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995], 53). On Bynner’s Pueblo dance poems as the culmination of his literary life in the Southwest, see Robert Franklin Gish, Beyond Bounds: Cross-Cultural Essays on Anglo, American Indian, and Chicano Literature (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996), 42–51. On Bynner’s 1928 essay for modern tourists about Pueblo dances, see Elizabeth Lloyd Oliphant, “Marketing the Southwest: Modernism, the Fred Harvey Company, and the Indian Detour,” American Literature 89, no. 1 (2017): 91–119. (Thank you to Elizabeth Barnett for drawing my attention to Bynner’s poem from the Nation at the MSA conference.) According to Faith Berry and Arnold Rampersad, Hughes’s information about Taos (which is near Santa Fe) probably came from conversation with Bynner in New York. “A House in Taos” won the 1926 Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Contest from the Poetry Society of America, judged by Bynner and Vachel Lindsay. See Faith Berry, Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1983), 80–82, 339; and Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 1:120–22. Hughes’s poem may be a satire of Mabel Dodge Luhan, whose circle in Taos, a focal point for non-Indian modernist fascination with American Indian cultures, included Lawrence and a Who’s Who of American modern and modernist writers and artists from Mary Austin, Willa Cather, and Marsden Hartley to Robinson Jeffers, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Carl Sandburg.

[20] John Joseph Mathews, Sundown (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 258.

[21] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak? Speculations on Widow-Sacrifice,” Wedge 7/8 (Winter/Spring 1985): 120–130, 129.

[22] When T. S. Eliot wrote about what he called the mythical method in his 1923 “Ulysses, Order, and Myth: A Review of Ulysses, by James Joyce,” he both reviewed Joyce’s archetypally modernist novel and, implicitly, offered a rationale for The Waste Land as an archetypally modernist poem (The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition, ed. Anthony Cuda and Ronald Schuchard [Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014], 476–81).

[23] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism,” Critical Inquiry 12, no.1 (1985): 243–61, 243.

[24] See Fanon, “On National Culture.”