In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery
By: Annette Kolodny (author)Paperback
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In Search of First Contact is a monumental achievement by the influential literary critic Annette Kolodny. In this book, she offers a radically new interpretation of two medieval Icelandic tales, known as the Vinland sagas. She contends that they are the first known European narratives about contact with North America. After carefully explaining the evidence for that conclusion, Kolodny examines what happened after 1837, when English translations of the two sagas became widely available and enormously popular in the United States. She assesses their impact on literature, immigration policy, and concepts of masculinity. Kolodny considers what the sagas reveal about the Native peoples encountered by the Norse in Vinland around the year A.D. 1000, and she recovers Native American stories of first contacts with Europeans, including one that has never before been shared outside of Native communities. These stories contradict the dominant narrative of "first contact" between Europeans and the New World.
Kolodny rethinks the lingering power of a mythic American Viking heritage and the long-standing debate over whether Leif Eiriksson or Christopher Columbus should be credited as the first discoverer. With this paradigm-shattering work, Kolodny shows what literary criticism can bring to historical and social scientific endeavors.
Annette Kolodny is College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century and the editor of The Life and Traditions of the Red Man, by Joseph Nicolar, both also published by Duke University Press. In addition, she is the author of The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860, and The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters.
List of Figures ix Acknowledgments xi Note on the Problematics of Word Choice and Usage xv Prologue. The Autobiography of a Book 1 1. The Politics of American Prehistory: Isolation versus Contact 19 2. Contact and Conflict: What the Vinland Sagas Tell Us 44 3. Anglo-America's Viking Heritage: A Nineteenth-Century romance 103 4. The New England Poets of Viking America and the Emergence of the Plastic Viking 151 5. The Challenge to Columbus and the Romance Undone 213 6. "We could not discerne any token or signe, that ever any Christian had been before": The Phantom of First Contact 257 7. Contact and Conflict Again: What Native Stories Tell Us 280 Epilogue. History Lessons 327 Notes 335 Works Consulted 379 Index 407
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