Appropriate Appropriations?: Reading Responsibility in Joan Crate’s Pale as Real Ladies


This paper engages certain sets of reading challenges posed by Alberta Métis writer Joan Crate’s 1991 collection of poems, Pale as Real Ladies: Poems for Pauline Johnson, a text which re-visions/re-works the life and oeuvre of nineteenth-century Six Nations poet and performer, Emily Pauline Johnson.  I work to understand how Crate’s text forces readers to confront their place(s) in the scene of reading, to engage questions of identity and difference—and of appropriation—and their articulation in relation to particular operations of canonical value and cultural power, in order, I argue,  to better  understand not Johnson’s life, identity, and work expressly but the conditions of their production. With close study of Pale as Real Ladies  and brief treatment of the later collection, Foreign Homes (2001), I ultimately argue that Crate’s texts exhort of  readers a confrontation with what we can think of as the violence of representation itself.

This article “Appropriate Appropriations?: Reading Responsibility in Joan Crate’s Pale as Real Ladies” originally appeared in Indigenous Focus. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 215 (Winter 2012): 35-52.

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