MEMORY, IMAGINATION, STORYTELLING AND THE NEW RESERVATION: SHERMAN ALEXIE'S CREATION OF A NEW NATIVE AMERICAN IDENTITY
Huminski, Timothy Brennen
It has to be an act of imagination that dissolves the boundaries between the self and the surrounding world. Sherman Alexie's text, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, explores a cultural reimagining predicated on the act of storytelling. Throughout his stories, the Native American identity has been subjugated by a colonizing and dominant White hegemony. In this world, the collective Native American identity has been fractured; the colonialization that has occurred deteriorates not only the individual and his or her sense of self, but the generational and tribal consciousness at the root of their cultural existence. Thus, Alexie's stories attempt to rectify these incongruencies, defragment these fractured consciousnesses, and piece together the many cultural holes torn open by generations of self-destruction, oppression, and alcoholism. I will argue in this thesis that Alexie's ability to mend and marry these fractured elements of cultural consciousness is made possible by his characters' ability to engage in the storytelling ethnocentricity that binds the present Native American identity with that of the past.Alexie's stories, characters, and narrators are responsible for weaving together the contemporary cultural tapestry. However, to do so, the roles of memory and storytelling must be established; these are the primary links to a cultural past enabling a redefinition of the contemporary Indian. Once the link to the past has been established, Alexie uses his various narrators to become the archetypical storytellers of the present: they are responsible for facilitating this new wave of cultural identity, one that harkens back to the past but pushes beyond the declension of the present. And finally, he attempts to resolve the Native American place in contemporary history by formulating a collective identity that is not defined by its defiance of colonization, but rather, by its affirmation of possibility, a resounding Nietzchean "yes" to its contemporaneous cultural standing through the power of reimagination.Note to the reader: The writing contained within this thesis embodies the authorial style of its content: it consciously breaks rules for stylistic purpose similar to Alexie's ability to bend genre for meaningful significance. It is the author's deliberate intention, at times, to implore this unique narrative voice: to highlight specific ideas and to amplify particular aspects of the argument.
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