"In Search of First Contact contributes a great deal to scholarly knowledge of the Vinland narratives. Annette Kolodny explains what those stories help us to comprehend about the indigenous peoples of the northern Atlantic coast, and she illuminates the process by which people in Anglo-America have come to understand their own history on this continent. Her exposition of the sagas is absolutely superb. This is an outstanding and important work."—Robert Warrior, Director of the American Indian Studies Program, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and author of The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction
"In Search of First Contact is a tour de force. In this masterful exploration of the Anglo-American fascination with Vikings in North America, Annette Kolodny unravels the mythology around Viking contact with the continent and explains how it has inspired Americans' search for their roots, been used politically, and served to set newcomers apart from the inhabitants already here. She brings a penetrating perspective to bear on the notion of first contact and what it might have meant both to Native Americans and to the Norse. This brilliantly written book is bound to become a classic."—Birgitta Linderoth Wallace, archaeologist and author of Westward Vikings: The Saga of L'Anse aux Meadows
"Having long argued that English-language texts alone provide an inadequate understanding of frontier history, Annette Kolodny now challenges the Eurocentric assumptions involved in what constitutes a 'literary' source. She makes the case that North American literary history begins not with the European exploration narratives customarily taken as its start, but with 'contact texts' culled from the pictographic materials of tribes in the Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki Confederacy and from the Norse sagas with which she suggests they intersect. Kolodny's sophisticated understanding of the theoretical implications of her findings, her meticulous and fair attention to previous scholarship, and her indefatigable and innovative efforts to mine material that has not previously figured prominently in these conversations result in a book that is exciting, fresh, and more ambitious and synthetic than any previous effort to explore contact narratives."—Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities and Director of the American Studies Program, Stanford University
“. . . . a fine book that tells a compelling story about formations of national identity in the US.”
(Judith Jesch Times Higher Education
“[A] nuanced, compelling, and frankly disturbing case study of how the national origin stories we tell ourselves can inspire and then justify the worst impulses of human nature. . . . The great achievement of In Search of First Contact is not the unveiling of new and surprising revelations about what exactly happened 2,000 years ago, but rather the insightful tracing of how stories about that encounter have flourished in the American imagination for 200 years.”
(Amy H. Sturgis Reason
“[An] extraordinary book…. In Search of First Contact is a groundbreaking work…. Fascinating in and of themselves, these stories challenge the dominant narrative that Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America.”
(Gale Courey Toensing Indian Country Today
“Annette Kolodny’s magnum opus, In Search of First Contact, is a fascinating and often times brilliant look at the tales and theories , sometimes resembling tall tales themselves, surrounding the Vikings and the Native people they found. . . .”
(Lindsey Catherine Cornum Mixedblood Messages blog
"A groundbreaking and timely study of the nature, uses and misuses of literary, historic, and social-scientific source materials in the construction of origin stories. . . . A notable contribution not only to American literary and literary-historical studies, but also to the fields of Native Studies and Contact Literatures. Her explication of the saga material is sound, her integration of multiple subjects and sources adroit, and her conclusions are stimulating."
(Michael Cichon Canadian Journal of Native Studies
“Reading ‘In Search of First Contact’ (Vikings, Sagas, Native Americans, Literature): Annette Kolodny. Fascinating!”
(Margaret Atwood, on Twitter)
“Eloquently written in a clear, jargon-free prose, generously footnoted, and containing an impressive list of works consulted, this outstanding book is bound to become a classic in the study of contact narratives and American studies in general. . . . Original in scope, meticulous in research, and provocative in analysis, In Search of First Contact invigorates the study of American identity and culture.”
(Kirsten Møllegaard Journal of American Culture
“In Search of First Contact is a masterful book which should reshape the way we think and talk about contact narratives—as well as about their (particularly racial) legacies in our cultural consciousness.”
(Margaret Reid American Historical Review
“In Search of First Contact is a monumental achievement: a visionary, scholarly meticulous, fun read pitched for a relatively wide audience. It will be of interest to scholars of literature, history, early America, colonial encounters, and Native American and Scandinavian studies, as well as to primary and secondary educators and general-interest readers."
(Birgit Brander Rasmussen Modern Language Quarterly
“It is hard to do justice to Kolodny’s meticulously researched, densely packed, finely grained, and jargon- free historical literary excursion. . . . I highly recommend this thoroughly researched study as an important contribution to American cultural studies."
(Harald E. L. Prins Studies in American Indian Literatures
About the Author
Annette Kolodny is College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century and the editor of The Life and Traditions of the Red Man, by Joseph Nicolar, both also published by Duke University Press. In addition, she is the author of The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630–1860, and The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters.