Mediation in Contemporary Native American Fiction

Mediation is the term James Ruppert uses to describe his important new theory of reading Native American fiction. Focusing on novels of six major contemporary American writers – N. Scott Momaday, James Welch, Leslie Silko, Gerald Vizenor, D’Arcy McNickle, and Louise Erdrich – Ruppert analyzes the ways in which these writers draw upon their bicultural heritage, guiding Native and non-Native readers alike to a different and expanded understanding of each other’s worlds.
While Native American writers may criticize white society, revealing its past and present injustices, their emphasis, Ruppert argues, is on healing, survival, and continuance. Their fiction aims to produce cross-cultural understanding rather than divisiveness. To that end they articulate the perspectives and values of competing world views. In particular they create characters who manifest what Ruppert calls “multiple identities” – determined by both Native and non-Native perceptions of the self.
These writers use a variety of narrative techniques deriving from different cultural traditions. They might incorporate Native oral storytelling techniques, adapting them to written form, or they might reconstruct Native mythologies, investing them with new meaning and relevance by applying them to contemporary situations. As novel-writers, they also include features more characteristic of western European writing – such as the omniscient narrator or the detective-story plot.