From the perspective of feminist epistemology, why does Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse provide a positive alternative narrative in women’s literature?
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Epistemology is the study of knowledge; it specifically studies the "nature of knowledge," how much humans can know, what can be known, what cannot be known, etc. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Epistemology"). Hence, feminist epistemology also studies knowledge but from a feminist perspective. It studies what can be understood about gender and gender roles from the standpoint of what can be known through analyzing "discussions, criticisms, and reconstructions of epistemic practices,, norms, and ideals" ("Feminist Epistemology").
Feminist epistemology also has many various approaches. One approach that seems most applicable to Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is the feminist epistemological critique of rationality and dualisms. More specifically, in her work in the 1990s, Susan Hekman argued that dualisms, like the masculine/feminism dualism, mislead feminist epistemological thinking, and feminist epistemology "should aim to destabilize and deconstruct those dualisms" ("Feminist Epistemology").
If we look at Erdrich's novel through the eyes of feminist epistemology, we can see that the author did indeed try to positively "deconstruct" the masculine/feminism dualism through the character Father Damien. In the novel, a young nun named Sister Cecelia is evicted from her community due to her passionate piano playing and resettles on a nearby farm. Eventually, a flood overtakes the farm and washes up the body of Father Damien Modeste, a priest who worked with the Ojibwe tribe when alive. In an act of survival, Sister Cecelia decides to take on the deceased Father Damien's identity. In having a woman take on the role of a man, the author is showing that there are really no true distinctions between the role of a man and the role of a woman, that both roles can be one and the same. In showing that both roles can be one and the same, she is also dismantling, or "deconstructing," the masculine/feminine dualism.
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