Pick up a work of typical literary criticism and you know what
to expect: prose that is dry, pedantic, well-meaning but
tedious--slow-going and essentially humorless. But why should that
be so? Why can't more literary criticism have a political edge and
be engaging and fast-paced? Why can't it include drama, personal
narrative, and even humor? Why can't criticism become an artistic
performance, rather than just a discussion of art?
"Art as Performance, Story as Criticism" is Craig Womack's
answer to these questions. Inventive and often outrageous, the book
turns traditional literary criticism on its head, rejecting
distanced, purely theoretical argumentation for intimate engagement
with literary works. Focusing on Native American literature, Womack
mixes forms and styles. He is unafraid to combine meticulous
research and carefully considered historical perspectives with
personal reactions and reflections.
The book opens with a short story, "The Song of Roe Nald," in
which a Native filmmaker loses control of his movie project, in
part because of his homoerotic attraction to its star. The
following chapters, or "mus(e)ings," include original dramas, while
others more closely resemble traditional literary criticism, such
as essays discussing the lesser-known plays of Lynn Riggs and the
stories of Durango Mendoza. Still other chapters defy easy
categorization, such as the piece "Caught in the Current, Clinging
to a Twig," in which Womack interweaves historical analysis of the
state of the Creek Nation in 1908 with a vivid recreation of the
last day on earth of Creek poet Alexander Posey. Throughout the
book, the author offers his take on such controversial issues as
the Cherokee freedmen issue and the ban on gay marriage.
In being different, Womack seeks to breathe new life into
literary analysis and in-troduce criticism to a wider audience.
Radical, groundbreaking, and refreshing, "Art as Performance, Story
as Criticism" reinvents literary criticism for the twenty-first
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