Reading the Prairies Relationally: Lousie Bernice Halfe and “Spacious Creation”


How do you read the literatures emerging from the prairies, literatures that are just as diverse and contested as the land itself? This essay offers an exploratory answer by examining the question of how prairie criticism might engage in an ethical way with the Aboriginal texts growing out of the prairies. For this purpose, I will read the work of Cree poet Louise Halfe as a performance of mamâhtâwisiwin, before discussing how this reading may be put in relation to prairie literary studies. In its attempt to make sense of the relationship between different literary traditions, my essay relies on two critically distinct approaches—one grounded in Cree traditions of language and thought, the other based in Euro-Western literary theory. Ultimately, this essay argues for such a relational prairie criticism, a criticism that has literary critics negotiate and move between different literary and critical traditions, assuming the role of translators.

This article “Reading the Prairies Relationally: Lousie Bernice Halfe and “Spacious Creation”” originally appeared in Indigenous Focus. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 215 (Winter 2012): 86-102.

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