Raven's Land: American Literary History in Medias Res

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Abstract

Known in Western literature for an act of disobedience in Genesis 8.7, the raven became a "type of devil"in eighteenth-century theological writing and a "thing of evil"in Edgar Allan's Poe's titular poem. This essay unsettles European labels for the raven through a case study of a Tlingit bentwood box, taken from Alaska in the 1880s and now housed at the Princeton University Art Museum. For over one hundred years, the box has been displaced, but it demands reconsideration through the complexity of the Raven as creator and trickster in Tlingit oral literature. Tlingit raven stories reveal a connection between the European dismissal of the raven as devil and the fabrication of the origins story in American literary history. Highlighting what Western literature ignores in the Genesis story - namely godless authority and a contra-teleological presence, Tlingit and Haida raven stories repudiate the myth of origins on which US settler colonialism depends.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)301-314
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Literary History
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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