Literary Indians

Aesthetics and Encounter in American Literature to 1920

By Angela Calcaterra

246 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4694-7
    Published: December 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4693-0
    Published: December 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4695-4
    Published: October 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5474-2
    Published: October 2018

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Although cross-cultural encounter is often considered an economic or political matter, beauty, taste, and artistry were central to cultural exchange and political negotiation in early and nineteenth-century America. Part of a new wave of scholarship in early American studies that contextualizes American writing in Indigenous space, Literary Indians highlights the significance of Indigenous aesthetic practices to American literary production.

Countering the prevailing notion of the “literary Indian” as a construct of the white American literary imagination, Angela Calcaterra reveals how Native people’s pre-existing and evolving aesthetic practices influenced Anglo-American writing in precise ways. Indigenous aesthetics helped to establish borders and foster alliances that pushed against Anglo-American settlement practices and contributed to the discursive, divided, unfinished aspects of American letters. Focusing on tribal histories and Indigenous artistry, Calcaterra locates surprising connections and important distinctions between Native and Anglo-American literary aesthetics in a new history of early American encounter, identity, literature, and culture.

About the Author

Angela Calcaterra is assistant professor of English at the University of North Texas.
For more information about Angela Calcaterra, visit the Author Page.


“Calcaterra’s methodology offers its biggest contribution to the field and reflects a new wave in early Native literary studies…Literary Indians holds the promise of the generative work possible when attuned to Indigenous aesthetics.” – American Literary History

“By asking what it meant to be literary in early America, Angela Calcaterra finds intriguing, likely controversial connections that bind Native and Euro-American literary practices together. Peppered with interpretive gems and archival finds, Literary Indians stands as a significant new way to look at nineteenth-century American literature.” —Phillip H. Round, author of Removable Type: Histories of the Book in Indian Country, 1663–1880

Literary Indians shows how American literary history cannot be fully understood without a comprehension of Indigenous representational practices. A much-needed and refreshing book.” —Katy Chiles, University of Tennessee