Humor in Contemporary Native North American Literature

Humor in Contemporary Native North American Literature

Reimagining Nativeness

Eva Gruber


Camden House



Encompassing view of humor in recent Native North American literature, with particular focus on Native self-image and identity.
In contrast to the popular cliché of the "stoic Indian," humor has always been important in Native North American cultures. Recent Native literature testifies to the centrality of this tradition. Yet literary criticism has so far largely neglected these humorous aspects, instead frequently choosing to concentrate on representations of trauma and cultural disruption, at the risk of reducing Native characters and Native cultures to the position of the tragic victim. This first comprehensive study explores the use of humor in today's Native writing, focusing on a wide variety of texts spanning all genres. It combines concepts from cultural studies and humor studies with approaches by Native thinkers and critics, analyzing the possible effects of humorous forms of representation on the self-image and identity formation of Native individuals and Native cultures. Humor emerges as an indispensable tool for engaging with existing stereotypes: Native writers subvert degrading clichés of "the Indian" from within, reimagining Nativeness in a celebration of laughing survivors, "decolonizing" the minds of both Native and non-native readers, and contributing to a renewal of Native cultural identity. This book will be of interest to scholars and students of Native Studies both literary and cultural. Due to its encompassing approach, it will also provide a point of entry for the wider readership interested in contemporary Native writing.

Eva Gruber is Assistant Professor in the American Studies section of the Department of Literature at the University of Konstanz, Germany.


July 2008
274 pages
9x6 in
European Studies in North American Literature and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132574
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BIC DS, 1KB, 2AB, 3J
BISAC LIT004060, LIT004020, LIT016000
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Table of Contents

Humor in Native North American Literature and Culture: Survey
Reimagining Nativeness Through Humor: Concepts and Terms
Expressing Humor in Contemporary Native Writing: Forms
Humor at Work in Contemporary Native Writing: Issues and Effects
Appendix: The State of Research on Humor in Native Writing
Works Cited


Thorough and comprehensive . . . a first of its kind . . . provides a clear-cut, systematically structured, and well-researched study of humor in Native North American literary texts. . . . Tells us how Native humor works. . . . Impressive. ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR KANADA-STUDIEN

The investigation of Native humor . has, with very few exceptions, remained restricted to anthropological and ethnographic studies of ritual humor.. Gruber's pioneering research fills this gap.. More than a significant contribution to Native American Studies; it is at the same time both a thoroughly researched academic study of and a most inspiring encounter with one of the central aspects of Native literature. ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR ANGLISTIK UND AMERIKANISTIK

Gruber demonstrates that Native authors accumulate familiar clichés and mix them with Native detachment to satirize the image of "the Indian" in the Euro-American collective imagination. Gruber's style is dense and analytic, but her demonstration is impressive. CHOICE

Author Bio

Assistant Professor at the Department of Literature/American Studies, Universität Konstanz (University of Constance).

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