Committee ChairWhite, Susan
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMy dissertation, "The Princess Production: Locating Pocahontas in Time and Place," critically evaluates the succession of representations of Pocahontas since her death in 1617. Pocahontas has become the prototypical "Indian Princess," through which the indigenous "other" is mapped onto Eurocentric constructions of gender and race, and subsequently transformed into the object of desire to be colonized. Chapter One begins with an introduction to the Pocahontas myth, and continues with an overview of the representation of Native Americans in cinema. Given that Native Americans have been the subject of the romanticization of the passing frontier, then the image of Pocahontas, standing in for the gendered "virgin" frontier, has been problematically used to represent American nationhood. In the second chapter, I investigate the commodification of the image of Pocahontas, by way of a critical assessment of Disney's Pocahontas (1995). Due to its extreme popularity and plethora of commercial tie-ins, this animated film was able to cement mainstream attitudes of Native Americans and especially of indigenous women. Critical discussion, however, was ameliorated through "politically correct" associations of Indians with ecological balance and moral purity versus European decadence. I analyze the symbolic association of Pocahontas with nature in Chapter Three, particularly in Terence Malick's recent film The New World (2005), where this association is most blatant. Malick has been heavily influenced by such philosophers as Martin Heidegger, and his resulting romantic and pantheistic vision clouds gender difference and racial antagonism. The image of Pocahontas in The New World, therefore, simply becomes a signifier for the grand impersonal workings of Nature. Finally, in Chapter Four, I discuss attempts by indigenous writers and groups to reappropriate Pocahontas for Native Americans, and I conclude that this is of strategic importance for transforming Indian identity. Since the image of Pocahontas has played such a large role in the shaping of mainstream attitudes and government policy toward Native Americans, then retrieving it from its colonial legacy will go a long way toward preserving Indian culture and identity in the future.
Degree ProgramComparative Cultural & Literary Studies