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Abstract

By looking at Sherman Alexie’s manipulation of the Petrarchan sonnet form in his most recent collection, What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned, this article deconstructs simplistic understanding of sovereignty as it relates to Indian identity to more accurately reflect the complex relationship between contemporary Indian culture and American capitalism. In What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned, Alexie infuses the western sonnet form with Indian narrative perspectives to explore ways that economic sovereignty stands in for cultural sovereignty, ultimately fostering complacency with institutional exploitation. By approaching these sonnets with a critical lens developed from elements of Homi Bhabha’s understanding of mimicry and José Esteban Muñoz’s concept of disidentification, this paper engages how Alexie pushes for a more rigorous understanding of American multiculturalism. Alexie pushes readers to more actively reflect on how conceptualizing Indians and whites as ideologically bifurcated limits Indian agency in their own self-determination. By demonstrating cultural interrelationships, both through manipulation of the sonnet form and through subject matter, Alexie sheds light on how institutionalized understandings of Indian identity perpetuate the suppression of Native culture.

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