Art as Performance, Story as Criticism
Reflections on Native Literary Aesthetics
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
376 Pages | 6 x 9
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 Náld,” 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 century.