At its heart, Queequeg’s Coffin calls for recognition of alternative, indigenous literacies in the Americas both prior to European penetration and during the period of contact between indigenous Americans and Europeans (and Americans of European descent). Specifically, this interesting new study examines literacy as a contested arena defined by the dialogue, or lack thereof, between indigenous and European forms of literacy and the consequences of such encounters in North and South America. The need for such analysis, the author notes in the opening stages of the work, stems from the condition that “textual and literary exchanges constitute an important and neglected aspect of American literary history in large part because scholars have inadequately explored the extent to which Europeans who arrived in the Americas encountered literate cultures” (p. 2).

Queequeg’s Coffin, though rather brief in length, remains sufficiently dense to offer complex analysis of the interplay between European and...

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