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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17751

Title: Uncomfortable Mirrors: Religion and Mimetic Violence in Contemporary Canadian Native Literature
Authors: Derry, Kenneth Stephen
Advisor: Kanaganayakam, Chelva
Department: Religion, Study of
Keywords: Canadian Literature
Native American Studies
Native Literature
Religion and Literature
Issue Date: 23-Sep-2009
Abstract: This study considers religion and mimetic violence in the work of four contemporary Canadian Native writers: Maria Campbell, Beatrice Culleton, Thomas King, and Basil Johnston. The mimetic violence examined is both social (the colonial attempt to remake the colonized into a reflection of the dominant culture) and personal (inter-Native conflict in which participants mirror one another in their struggle for a mutually covetted object). In order to investigate the former, I rely on the work of Homi K. Bhabha on colonial mimicry and hybridity; to examine the latter, I employ René Girard’s model of mimetic desire and violence. The principal academic contexts to this work are the study of Native literature and the academic study of religion, including the sub-field of Religion and Literature. After reviewing the relevant literature in these fields, and examining mimetic violence in key texts by the Native authors listed, I make several concluding points. First, I argue that a causal link between colonial violence and inter-Native mimetic violence is evident in the category of Native literature labelled by Thomas King as “polemical.” This includes Campbell’s Halfbreed, Culleton’s In Search of April Raintree, and King’s own Green Grass, Running Water. Second, I find that Johnston’s Moose Meat & Wild Rice and Indian School Days generally take care to separate colonial mimesis from Native mimetic conflict. This work fits King’s “associational” category of Native literature, and the disconnect evident in Johnston’s stories between the two forms of mimesis might stand as a defining feature of this category. Third, I assert that in none of the Native literature examined is religion viewed in a positive, idealist manner that assumes in its “true” manifestation it cannot be the cause of violence, which is the position taken by most religion scholars. I argue that the emphasis the Native texts place on the historic, material actions and effects of Christian individuals and institutions complements similar work being done by a minority of academics in the study of religion. Fourth, I propose possible avenues for the further investigation of mimesis in Native literature, which would use/focus on: metaphor-centred hermeneutical models; trickster figures and theories; and the conception of both Native and colonial identity. Finally, I argue that critics of Native literature have tended to idealize Native cultures, and that inter-Native mimetic violence offers a humanizing corrective to this perspective.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17751
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department and Centre for the Study of Religion - Doctoral theses

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