Detecting colonialism: Detective fiction in Native American and Sardinian literatures
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation compares Native American and Sardinian literatures, focussing on literary renditions of detective stories, a recent development which has occurred in both literatures. The study is based on Procedura (1988), and Il terzo suono (1995), by Sardinian author Salvatore Mannuzzu; The Sharpest Sight (1992), Bone Game (1994), and Nightland (1996) by Choctaw-Cherokee-Irish writer Louis Owens. In both literatures the use of detective fiction embodies the authors' commentary regarding the discourse on colonization. Recurrent thematic features are the concern with history, notably the history of domination and the processes that have led to the present post-colonial condition. The drive towards solving the crime symbolizes and comments upon the necessity of addressing the history of colonization, past and present, both of the land and its people. All the novels included in this study elaborate the basic features of the genre in innovative ways that offer significant commentaries on the condition of these two colonized peoples. The truth at the end of the narration is broken down to a multiplicity of competing narratives. The dispossession and exploitation of ancestral land are textually structured as crimes which further parallel and comment upon the murder of human beings. Also, the characters of the detectives are pivotal for the embodiment of a critique of the classic anthropological model. The gathering of data in order to offer a 'scientific' version of the truth is an endeavor shared by criminal investigators as well as anthropologists, ethnologists and archaeologists. Since classic detective fiction and modern science developed simultaneously around the middle of nineteenth century, it is not coincidental that post-colonial authors of detective fiction feel the necessity to address the self-appointed superiority of so-called scientific discourse. As both cultures have been commodified as objects to be studied by external social scientists, Mannuzzu's and Owens's refusal to depict a univocal solution is also indicative of the clash between definitions elaborated by outsiders versus forms of traditional knowledge within the cultural group.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Comparitive Culture and Literary Studies