Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Discuss Gerald Vizenor’s use of names in the works that you have read.

The stories that Vizenor writes are often set in either Minnesota or China. Does the author make significant connections in his writing between these two locales?

To what effect does Vizenor employ academic settings in the stories that you have read?

After reading some of Vizenor’s stories, how would you now define the term “trickster”?

Vizenor is very well read. Discuss some evidence in his stories that he consciously uses stories from past ages and literatures to illuminate some of his writing.

Vizenor has said in interviews that tragedy is an invention of the West. Despite this theory, do you find evidence in any of his writing of elements of tragedy?

What do you think Vizenor’s feelings are toward modern technology?

Gerald Vizenor Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Best known for his novels, especially Griever: An American Monkey King in China (1987), Gerald Vizenor has also published several volumes of poetry, many of them devoted to haiku. He also wrote the screenplay Harold of Orange (1983) and a number of nonfiction volumes, including Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance (1994) and Postindian Conversations (1999), which champion the Native American cause.

Gerald Vizenor Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Winner of the Fiction Collective Award (1987), the American Book Award (1988), California Arts Council Literature Award (1989), and the PEN/Oakland Book Award (1990), Gerald Vizenor has become a prominent voice in Native American Literature despite the difficulty of his works. His academic recognition has included the J. Hill Professorship at the University of Minnesota and the David Burr Chair at the University of Oklahoma.

Gerald Vizenor

(Critical Survey of Native American Literature)

Author Profile

Gerald Vizenor’s success as a scholar and writer did not come easily or quickly. Before beginning his graduate studies at the University of Minnesota in 1962, Vizenor served in the National Guard and in the U.S. Army in Japan. In the early 1960’s, Vizenor worked as a corrections agent in Minnesota, while also writing poetry. In the late 1960’s, Vizenor worked as a journalist for the Minneapolis Tribune. Vizenor’s teaching career began in Minnesota public schools; he went on to teach literature and American Indian studies at a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Vizenor’s writing, often in the form of satire, has tended to focus on issues concerning contemporary native identities, relationships between oral and written native histories and literatures, trickster figures, and the ways in which native people have been represented in literature, social science, and photography. Vizenor has published numerous volumes of poetry; his novels include Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart (1973) and Griever: An American Monkey King in China (1987). His many works of nonfiction include an edited volume of literary criticism, Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on American Indian Literatures (1989), and The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories (1984).

Bibliography

Barry, Nora Baker. “Postmodern Bears in the Texts of Gerald Vizenor.” MELUS 27 (Fall, 2002): 93-112. Countering the trend to discuss Vizenor’s work by focusing on his trickster figures, Barry turns attention to his use of the mythologically important figure of the bear in his work.

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Gerald Vizenor Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Barry, Nora Baker. “Postmodern Bears in the Texts of Gerald Vizenor.” MELUS 27 (Fall, 2002): 93-112. Countering the trend to discuss Vizenor’s work by focusing on his trickster figures, Barry turns attention to his use of the mythologically important figure of the bear in his work.

Blaeser, Kimberly. Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. Blaeser emphasizes Vizenor’s own awareness of ironic contrasts between his eclecticism and his sense of continuity with the tribal past.

Coltelli, Laura, ed. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Haseltine, Patricia. “The Voices of Gerald Vizenor: Survival Through Transformation.” American Indian Quarterly 9, no. 1 (Winter, 1985): 31. In discussing Vizenor’s multiplicity, Haseltine suggests that one strata of it arises from dream vision experience.

Isernhagen, Hartwig. Momaday, Vizenor, Armstrong: Conversations on American Indian Writing. American Indian Literature and Critical Studies series 32. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. Although Vizenor has given many interviews, this work brings him into the context of N. Scott Momaday’s works, which have been a major influence on Vizenor’s.

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(The entire section is 530 words.)