In the Belly of a Laughing God

In the Belly of a Laughing God: Humour and Irony in Native Women's Poetry

Jennifer Andrews
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442661844
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  • Book Info
    In the Belly of a Laughing God
    Book Description:

    In the Belly of a Laughing Godexamines how eight contemporary Native women poets in Canada and the United States employ humour and irony to address the intricacies of race, gender, and nationality.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6184-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-37)

    As Paula Gunn Allen argues in her now famous essay on Native¹ American women’s poetry, humour and irony are fundamental survival tools for many female Native writers. These two discursive strategies play important but often undervalued roles in Native North American cultures and literatures by overturning stereotypical assumptions about Native people and their tribal histories. Humour and irony are particularly effective methods of expressing the contradictions and dichotomies that shape the lives of Native populations today, as individuals and communities blend ‘tribal tradition’ and ‘contemporary experience’ (Gunn Allen 1986, 160). By combining the two, Native women writers and activists from...

  5. chapter one Spiritual Transformations
    (pp. 38-78)

    ‘Transformation’ is a central term for the women writers examined in this book.² The poets have used it to describe their teaching strategies, to talk about the purposes of their poetry, and, in several cases, to explain how they reconcile or challenge the Christian faith with Native spiritual beliefs. For instance, Kimberly Blaeser, Marilyn Dumont, Louise Halfe, Marie Annharte Baker, and Diane Glancy all, to varying degrees, are concerned with the relevance of Christianity to their writing. Cree/Métis writer and educator Kim Anderson explains that ‘the church has been heavily implicated in all aspects of colonization and it played a...

  6. chapter two Generic Transformations
    (pp. 79-122)

    Because transformation explores the ‘permeability of all boundaries,’ it also can be used to rethink western definitions of genre and medium, as is exemplified by the work of Joy Harjo and Jeannette Armstrong (Donovan 1998, 143).¹ The efforts of these two Native North American poets to bring music and poetry together in performance as well as on the page have often been deemed inappropriate by literary scholars, or ignored altogether despite the plethora of scholarly writing on them, especially Harjo. In an effort to negotiate her urban mixed-blood status and alienation from her tribal language, Harjo has continued to cultivate...

  7. chapter three Histories, Memories, and the Nation
    (pp. 123-181)

    As Kimberly Blaeser argues in ‘The New “Frontier” of Native American Literature: Dis-Arming History with Tribal Humor,’ history has fundamentally shaped Native literature, serving as a basis for opposition and revision for contemporary Native authors who write ‘against the events of Indian/White contact and … more importantly, against the past accounting of those events’ (1992, 351). Native writers are not the only ones who have expressed skepticism about the objectivity of history as a discipline; Hayden White famously asserted in 1978 that history texts are best described as ‘fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found’ (1978,...

  8. chapter four Haunting Photographs, Revisioning Families
    (pp. 182-219)

    Ghosts are a powerful presence in recent Native North American women’s poetry, as rendered through language and accompanying visual images, particularly photography. The invocation of ghosts can be a powerful tool for rewriting dominant (white western) histories of nation, whether by refashioning perceptions of key historical figures or by introducing otherwise marginalized individuals and communities into the realm of historical discourse. But the invocation of ghosts – ancestral or otherwise – is not just a tool for revising Eurocentric historical records. In many cases, as already exemplified by Blaeser’s ‘Living History’ (see chapter 3), ghosts also celebrate the power of...

  9. chapter five Space, Place, Land, and the Meaning(s) of Home
    (pp. 220-268)

    As the epigraphs from Dumont and Gunn Allen suggest, land is central to Native identity whether one lives on reservation or is a second- or third-generation city dweller. And the long history of Native dispossession continues to have devastating effects. Jace Weaver explains inThat the People Might Livethat ‘when Natives are removed from their traditional lands, they are robbed of more than territory; they are deprived of numinous landscapes that are central to their faith and their identity’ (1997, 38). The land and body are intricately connected, particularly through language. Likewise, the need for a place to call...

  10. Conclusion: Intertextual Conversations
    (pp. 269-272)

    InAbsentee Indians & Other Poems, Kimberly Blaeser includes a selection of poems titled ‘From One Half Mad Writer to Another,’ in which she overtly pays tribute to several of those writers who have played a significant role in the development of her work, creating an intertextual homage which celebrates the power of ‘influence in Native literature’ (Andrews 2007b, 4). Blaeser pointedly embraces this intertextuality:

    I don’t want to pretend or to set myself up as if I were some individual creator, because I know so well that I’m not. So I feel that having a conversation that moves from this...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 273-282)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-298)
  13. Discography
    (pp. 299-300)
  14. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 301-302)
  15. Index
    (pp. 303-324)