Negotiating Traumatic Memories in Louise Erdrich’s The Round House: White Man’s Law vs. Native Justice and Tradition

  • Aitor Ibarrola-ArmendarizEmail author


This chapter shows how Louise Erdrich’s The Round House (2012) can be productively analysed to delve into such momentous issues as the common vulnerability of particular human groups (in this case, Native Americans); how these groups (despite their marginal(ized) position) have been able to cope with historical trauma; and the kind of strategies they have developed to survive in a hostile socio-political context. Drawing upon concepts and ideas used in studies on traumatic memories and the politics of mourning, Ibarrola-Armendariz explores how Erdrich’s novel articulates a response to a problem—the assaults on Indian women—that has historically plagued her people. The protagonist-narrator of the story, Joe Coutts, is faced with the difficult challenge of recovering from both an individual and a cultural trauma.


Traumatic memories Native Americans Louise Erdrich Justice and sovereignty Cultural trauma 

Bibliographical References

  1. Agamben, Giorgio. 1995. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brave Heart, Maria Yellow Horse. 2003. “The Historical Trauma Response among Natives and its Relationship to Substance Abuse: A Lakota Illustration.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 35 (1): 7–13.Google Scholar
  3. Brave Heart, Maria Yellow Horse, and Lemyra M. DeBruyn. 1998. “The American Indian Holocaust: Healing historical unresolved grief.” American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research 8 (2): 60–82.Google Scholar
  4. Butler, Judith. 2004. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Craddock, Tina. 2014. Intergenerational Trauma in African and Native American Literatures. MA dissertation, East Carolina University.Google Scholar
  6. Delbo, Charlotte. 1990. Days and Memory, translated by Rosette Lamont. Marlboro, VT: The Marlboro Press.Google Scholar
  7. Denham, Aaron. 2008. “Rethinking Historical Trauma: Narratives of Resilience.” Transcultural Psychiatry 45: 391–414.Google Scholar
  8. Denny, Clark H., Deborah Holtzman, Turner Goins, and Janet B. Croft. 2005. “Disparities in Chronic Disease Risk Factors and Health Status between American Indian/Alaska Native and White Elders: Findings from a Telephone Survey, 2001 and 2002.” American Journal of Public Health 48 (1): 825–827.Google Scholar
  9. Douglass, Ann, and Thomas A. Vogler, eds. 2003. “Introduction.” In Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma, 1–53. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Durrant, Sam. 2013. “Undoing Sovereignty: Towards a Theory of Critical Mourning.” In The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism, edited by Gert Buelens, Sam Durrant and Robert Eaglestone, 91–110. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Edkins, Jenny. 2003. Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Eng, David L., and David Kazanjian, (eds). 2003. “Introduction: Mourning Remains.” In Loss: The Politics of Mourning, 1–25. Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Erdrich, Louise. [2012] 2013. The Round House. London: Corsair.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2013. “Rape on the Reservation.” The New York Times, 26 February. Accessed 16 January 2015.
  15. Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. 1992. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Greenya, John. 2012. “Book Review: The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.” Washington Times, 15 November. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  17. Herman‚ Judith L. 1992. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Kakutani, Michiko. 2012. “Ambushed on the Road to Manhood. Review of The Round House.” The New York Times, 15 October. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  19. Keane, Mary B. 2012. “Louise Erdrich interviewed by Mary Beth Keane.” National Book Foundation, November. Accessed 23 April, 2014.
  20. Kidd, James. 2013. “Review: The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.” The Independent, 12 May. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  21. Lloyd, David. 2000. “Colonial Trauma/Postcolonial Recovery?” Interventions 2 (2): 212–228.Google Scholar
  22. Marszal, Andrew. 2013. “The Round House by Louise Erdrich, Review.” The Telegraph, 15 June. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  23. Miller, Laura. 2013. “The Round House by Louise Erdrich. A review.” The Guardian, 18 May. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  24. Morrison, Toni. 1995. “The Site of Memory.” In Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, second edition, edited by William Zinsser, 83–102. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  25. Plous, Scott. 2002. Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  26. Ricoeur, Paul. 2000. La memoire, l’histoire, l’oubli. Paris: Éditions de Seuil.Google Scholar
  27. Rodríguez, Emma. 2013. “Louise Erdrich: Los ecos de La casa redonda.” Revista Lecturas Sumergidas, 23 July. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  28. Rothberg, Michael. 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Russo, Maria. 2012. “Disturbing the Spirits. Review of The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.” The New York Times, 12 October. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  30. Smith, Andrea. 2005. “Native American Feminism, Sovereignty and Social Change.” Feminist Studies 31 (1): 116–132.Google Scholar
  31. Sotero, Michelle. 2006. “A Conceptual Model of Historical Trauma: Implications for Public Health Practice and Research.” Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice 1 (1) (fall): 93–108.Google Scholar
  32. Stamm, B. Hudnall, and Henry E. Stamm. 1999. “Trauma and Loss in Native North America: An Ethnocultural Perspective.” In Honoring Differences: Cultural Issues in the Treatment of Trauma and Loss, edited by Kathleen Nader, Nancy Dubrow and B. Hudnall Stamm, 49–75. Philadelphia and London: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  33. Stewart, Victoria. 2003. Women’s Autobiography: War and Trauma. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. Vizenor, Gerald, (ed.). 2008. Survivance: Narratives of Native Presence. Lincoln: Nebraska University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Whitehead, Anne. 2004. Trauma Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Williams, John. 2012. “The Burden of Justice: Louise Erdrich Talks about The Round House.” The New York Times, 24 October. Accessed 22 January 2015.
  37. Winter, Jay. 2010. “Introduction. The Performance of the Past: History, Memory, Identity.” In Performing the Past: Memory, History and Identity in Modern Europe, edited by Karin Tilmans, Frank van Vree and Jay Winter, 11–23. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DeustoBilbaoSpain

Personalised recommendations