Understanding James Welch

Feb 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-3: How to Build a Dream, Media Reviews

By Ron McFarland
University of South Carolina Press, 2000

Review by Woody Kipp

James Welch, the Blackfeet-Gros Ventre novelist/poet, has joined the rarefied air of some very important American writers with the publication of Ron McFarland’s book of literary criticism. While teaching American Indian Literature at the University of Montana a few years ago, I invited James Welch into my classroom. We had concocted many theories about why he chose certain passages that seemed to contain hidden messages in his novel, Winter In The Blood. Welch smiled politely when told of our theories and said he had never pictured his novel in that way before.

Like many writers, Welch writes and lets the literary critics put the spin on his work, giving it myriad meanings he says he never thought about when he was writing it. Dragging the symbolism out of Welch’s work, McFarland does a good job in infusing meaning into the novels and poetry of Welch, sometimes possibly overreaching a bit but still, interesting. The Welch writings should be part of any class dealing with native literature.

Woody Kipp is an enrolled member of the Pikuni Blackfoot Nation in Montana. He currently teaches literature and history at Little Priest Tribal College on the Ho-Chunk Reservation.

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