Pawnee and Osage Orientations in Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edwin James
Chapter 4 argues that Indigenous story traditions are a crucial, overlooked context for understanding nineteenth-century American literature about “the West.” This chapter analyzes Pawnee and Osage narratives alongside Washington Irving’s Tour on the Prairies (1835) to demonstrate white authorial disorientation in the face of Indigenous storied space. Pawnee and Osage representations of journeys, crossings, and encounters along the network of trails that crossed the great plains guided these communities throughout the trying periods of US invasion and removal during the nineteenth century. The bodily discomfort and aesthetic disorientation depicted in Irving’s Tour on the Prairies is a result of his inability to connect with long-standing Indigenous movements and temporalities in this space. Similarly, scholarly misreading and neglect of this text is a product of a limited critical approach restricted to a singular authorial aesthetic. James Fenimore Cooper’s and Edwin James’s accounts of unsettling proximity to Native aesthetics close this chapter to suggest broader patterns of authorial disorientation.
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