Aesthetics and Encounter in American Literature to 1920
Although cross-cultural encounter is often considered an economic or political matter, beauty, taste, and artistry were central to cultural exchange and political negotiation in early and nineteenth-century America. Part of a new wave of scholarship in early American studies that contextualizes American writing in Indigenous space, Literary Indians highlights the significance of Indigenous aesthetic practices to American literary production.
Countering the prevailing notion of the "literary Indian" as a construct of the white American literary imagination, Angela Calcaterra reveals how Native people's pre-existing and evolving aesthetic practices influenced Anglo-American writing in precise ways. Indigenous aesthetics helped to establish borders and foster alliances that pushed against Anglo-American settlement practices and contributed to the discursive, divided, unfinished aspects of American letters. Focusing on tribal histories and Indigenous artistry, Calcaterra locates surprising connections and important distinctions between Native and Anglo-American literary aesthetics in a new history of early American encounter, identity, literature, and culture.