Reading the Fire

The Traditional Indian Literatures of America

Edited by Jarold Ramsey

  • $27.00s paperback (9780295977874) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 1999
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies; Literature
  • Bibliographic information: 352 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Reading the Fire engages America's "first literatures," traditional Native American tales and legends, as literary art and part of our collective imaginative heritage. This revised edition of a book first published to critical acclaim in 1983 includes four new essays.

Drawing on ethnographic data and regional folklore, Jarold Ramsey moves from origin and trickster narratives and Indian ceremonial texts, into interpretations of stories from the Nez Perce, Clackamas Chinook, Coos, Wasco, and Tillamook repertories, concluding with a set of essays on the neglected subject of Native literary responses to contact with Euroamericans. In his finely worked, erudite analyses, he mediates between an author-centered, print-based narrative tradition and one that is oral, anonymous, and tribal, adducing parallels between Native texts and works by Shakespeare, Yeats, Beckett, and Faulkner.
Part One
1) Creations and Origins
2) Coyote and Friends, an Experiment in Interpretive Bricolage
3) The Poetry and Drama of Healing, the Iroquoian "Condolence Ritual" and the Navajo "Night Chant"
Part Two
4) From Mythic to Fictive in the Nez Perce Orpheus Myth
5) "The Hunter Who Had an Elk for a Guardian Sprit" and the Ecological Imagination
6) The Wife Who Goes out Like a Man, Comes Back as a hero: The art of two Oregon Indian narratives
7) Uncursing the Misbegotten in a Tillamook Incest Story
8) Genderic and Racial Appropriation in Victoria Howard's "The Honorable Milt"
Part Three
9) Simon Fraser's Canoe; or Capsizing into Myth
10) Fish-Hawk and Other Heroes
11) Retroactive Prophecy in Western Indian Narrative
12) The Bible in Western Indian Mythology
13) Ti-Jean and the Seven-headed Dragon, Instances of Native American Assimilation of European Folklore
14) Francis La Flesche's "The song of FLying Crow" and the Limits of Ethnography
15) Tradition and Individual Talents in Modern Indian Writing

"A gathering of brilliant essays by the most literarily sensitive of commentators on Native American myths and tales."
-Karl Kroeber, Traditional Literatures of the American Indian

"Jarold Ramsey has emerged as one of the most skilled and articulate commentators on American Indian literature active today."
-J. Barre Toelken, Western Folklore

"A balanced, steady intelligence informs these essays. . . . It is a book that should be read by anyone who teaches American literature or specializes in American literary studies."
-Larry Evers, Western Humanities Review

"American scholarship needs more of what Ramsey has done here: his work is a careful, detailed, but also sympathetic and profound study of the myths he has examined."
-Dell Skeels, Pacific Northwest Quarterly