Unscripted America: Indigenous languages and the origins of a literary nation

Research output: Book/ReportBook

23 Scopus citations


From their earliest encounters in the Americas, Europeans struggled to make sense of the words spoken by the numerous indigenous tribes that surrounded them. Unscripted America recounts a colonial struggle between peoples of European descent who aspired to map native languages according to Christian and Enlightenment cosmologies and indigenous resistance to this ascribed meaning. Unscripted America reconstructs an archive of indigenous language texts in order to present a new account of their impact of comparative philology on the formation of US literary culture. American Indian language texts reveal poignant and contradictory histories of preservation through erasure: each stands as a record of colonial destruction as well as an archive ready for recovery and recuperation. Unscripted America places American Indian languages within transatlantic intellectual history, while also demonstrating how American letters emerged in the 1810s through 1830s via a complex and hitherto unexplored engagement with the legacies and aesthetic possibilities of indigenous words. What scholars have more traditionally understood through the Romantic ideology of the noble savage, a vessel of antiquity among dying populations, was in fact a palimpsest of still-living indigenous populations whose presence in American literature remains traceable through words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages384
ISBN (Electronic)9780190492564
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • American literary history
  • Early America
  • Enlightenment
  • Indigenous studies
  • Religion


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