Much has been written about how contemporary Native American writers explore the intersection between cultural or social materialities on the one hand and aesthetic or imaginative autonomies on the other. In keeping with that discussion, this essay examines David Treuer's Little (1995) alongside his recent collection of critical essays, Native American Fiction: A User's Manual (2006) and queries the extent to which Treuer's exploration of the universal nature of fiction meshes with various articulations of indigenous sovereignty and tribal independence. In doing so it examines the tensions arising out of a situation in which indigenous fictionists wish to introduce tribal perspectives in their writing without ceding their cultural autonomy. The expressive parsimony found in Treuer's novel might well be read in terms of a figurative defiance. By refusing to speak, the eponymous protagonist quite literally practices a form of personal self-rule—one that marks out his difference from those around him—while also denying the reader easy access to his particular version of events. However, in light of the Ojibwe author's advocacy of close reading and New Critical approaches to Native American fiction, alongside his claim that a certain form of affective fallacy is at play within Native American literary criticism, Treuer seems relatively disinterested in real-world situations or contexts. In response, the essay examines his particular emphasis on “artistry” and “style” and questions whether this critical agenda can be linked to the definitions of artistic autonomy currently informing discussions of indigenous sovereignty and tribal nationalism.

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