Reconstructing the Native South
American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Melanie Benson Taylor

Exploring intersections of region and tribe in contemporary Native American literature of the South


"Many scholars in ethnic studies generally, and Native American Studies in particular, have been mired in some fairly old debates over nationalism and cosmopolitanism, sovereignty and globalization. Benson ever so gracefully takes the most recent and nuanced work on these issues, acknowledges the stakes therein, and shows us how we can explore productive new affiliations."
—Siobhan Senier, University of New Hampshire

"In the newly emerging field of southeastern Indian literary studies, Reconstructing the Native South does a wonderful job of laying out important groundwork, contributing significant original insights, and raising some difficult questions to stimulate further exchange and debate. It is confidently, fluidly written, well-documented, well argued, and makes use of the most current texts and methodologies available, positioning itself in the cutting-edge intersections of New Southern Studies and American Indian Studies."
—Ellen Arnold, East Carolina University

"Taylor has offered the fields of southern studies and Native American studies an important contribution—one that interrogates a region's difficult past and calls for its potentially boundless, and better, future."
—Gina Marie Caison, H-Net Reviews

"An invaluable contribution to Native and southern literary studies and American studies, this volume opens productive, provocative modes of interdisciplinary inquiry."
—S.K. Bernardin, Choice

"Melanie Benson Taylor show[s] striking originality by linking fiction written by Native American authors with fiction written about them in her Reconstructing the Native South."
American Literary Scholarship

"[Reconstructing the Native South] is an important contribution to the growing field of scholarship on native southern literatures and makes a strong argument that the Native South is fertile ground for new strategies in the fight for indigenous sovereignty, both literary and otherwise."
—Jesse Peters, The Journal of Southern History

“In Reconstructing the Native South, Taylor has compiled a tremendous monograph concerning the relationship between Native American and southern literature. . . .With extraordinary interpretations and insights concerning the relatability within the literary works from southern and Native American writers, Taylor has helped to open a burgeoning field. Taylor’s book is very insightful and recommended for those who are interested in Native American or postcolonial American literature.”
—Jeff Washburn, American Indian Quarterly

“This truly original study is the first book-length publication on Native southern studies that sets up parallels between the disciplines. . . .Taylor’s book will no doubt have a tremendous impact on not one discipline but two: southern and Native American studies. No course on Southern literature can afford to leave out the work of Native southern writers anymore; this paradigm-changing and invaluable book provides an excellent model for including and discussing such work.”
—Annette Trefzer, Southern Literary Journal

With Reconstructing the Native South, [Taylor] gives us a first book-length map of Native southern literary souths, monsters and all.

—Eric Gary Anderson, Studies in American Literatures

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In Reconstructing the Native South, Melanie Benson Taylor examines the diverse body of Native American literature in the contemporary U.S. South—literature written by the descendants of tribes who evaded Removal and have maintained ties with their southeastern homelands. In so doing Taylor advances a provocative, even counterintuitive claim: that the U.S. South and its Native American survivors have far more in common than mere geographical proximity. Both cultures have long been haunted by separate histories of loss and nostalgia, Taylor contends, and the moments when those experiences converge in explicit and startling ways have yet to be investigated by scholars. These convergences often bear the scars of protracted colonial antagonism, appropriation, and segregation, and they share preoccupations with land, sovereignty, tradition, dispossession, subjugation, purity, and violence.

Taylor poses difficult questions in this work. In the aftermath of Removal and colonial devastation, what remains—for Native and non-Native southerners—to be recovered? Is it acceptable to identify an Indian “lost cause”? Is a deep sense of hybridity and intercultural affiliation the only coherent way forward, both for the New South and for its oldest inhabitants? And in these newly entangled, postcolonial environments, has global capitalism emerged as the new enemy for the twenty-first century? Reconstructing the Native South is a compellingly original work that contributes to conversations in Native American, southern, and transnational American studies.

The New Southern Studies

Page count: 248 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Melanie Benson Taylor is an assistant professor of English and Native American studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Disturbing Calculations: The Economics of Identity in Postcolonial Southern Literature, 1912–2002 and Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause (both Georgia).