Susan PowerPhoto of Louis Owens. Sherman Alexie photo by Rob Casey


 left to right: Susan Power, Louis Owens,  filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, Philip Red Eagle, LeAnne Howe

Susan Deer Cloud, Lance Henson, Ron Welburn, Stephanie Elliott,  Sherman Alexie


ENG 328-01 (crn# 11367) and -02 (crn#11368)                                           FALL 2010


Contemporary Native American Literature

approved elective in the Multicultural and Ethnic Studies minor & major;

satisfies U.S. Diversity Core

Section 1: MWF 11:30-12:20 in Parenzo Hall 109

 Section 2: MWF 12:35-1:25 in Bates Hall 212

Prof. Vanessa Holford Diana                                                      Phone: 572-5687      E-mail:                                                            Office: B-213           

Office Hours: MWF 1:35-2:35 & by appt.


Required Texts (available at campus bookstore):

Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene) Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2009)

Susan Deer Cloud (Mohawk/Blackfoot/Seneca), editor, I Was Indian (before being Indian was

            cool): An Anthology of Native Literature Vol 1 (2009)

LeAnne Howe (Choctaw) Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (2007)

Owens, Louis (Choctaw/Cherokee) Nightland (1996)

Susan Power (Sioux) Roofwalker short stories (2002)

Red Eagle, Philip H. (Dakota/Salish) Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey (1997)



Course Description:

What is Native American literature?  Critic Dorothea Susag explains that,

"Although some have tried, . . . the definition of Native American literature cannot be reduced to myth, mysticism, or historical artifact, evidence of 'the way Indians used to live.'  In truth, traditional oral and contemporary written Indian literatures, in the plural, reflect the diversity of over five hundred tribal cultures, with a variety of literary traditions within each of those cultures.  These literatures also demonstrate the influences and consequences of intertribal contact and European American cultural contact, expressing the individual lives that stem from these various cultural and historical experiences."

In this discussion-based course emphasizing contemporary fiction, as well as poetry, autobiography, and film, we will read texts by a range of Native American authors who represent just a small sampling of the tribal and geographic diversity and literary variety Susag describes. We will consider texts in their specific cultural contexts, and we will learn about some of the shared thematic concerns and literary strategies that characterize contemporary Native American literature.  Each of you will contribute to facilitating class discussion by bringing in questions about our readings, and the papers you write will help you learn more about authors' backgrounds, their creative approaches, and the historical and cultural issues they address.  For this reading-intensive class, students should expect to spend between 1-3 hours outside class to prepare for each class meeting. Because English 328 is an upper-division course, students should be able to draw on their work in English 102 to write clear, persuasive, and original essays about the literature we read and use general vocabulary related to literary analysis.


Grading Criteria:  I do not grade on a curve. My grading standards are tough but fair, and I endeavor to communicate my expectations for each assignment clearly. Please take advantage of my office hours to clarify any questions about my grading standards or your standing in the course. When computing grades, letters and checks will correspond to the following numbers:

A  = 95            B  = 85            C  = 75            D  = 65

A- = 92           B- = 82 C- = 72                         F = 60 and below

B+ = 87           C+ = 77           D + = 67          Failure to hand in assignment = 0


Extra Credit Policy: Over the course of the semester, I will announce numerous on-campus events that count as extra credit for this class (lectures, films, etc.).  Attending one outside event (either the Poetry Panel or Jeff Barnaby film screening) is also required for the Event Response Paper.  If you attend an extra credit event and hand in an informal one-page written response describing what you learned from the event (within two weeks of the eventís date), you will receive 30 extra credit points, which can be applied to quiz grades. Asking a question at either the poetry or Barnaby event counts as 10 extra credit points. Visits to the Reading and Writing Center to discuss paper drafts count for 15 extra credit points.  Maximum extra credit points = 210.


Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another's words or ideas. Any outside sources used in essays must be properly credited and documented following MLA guidelines. Plagiarism of any type will result in an F for the assignment, possible failure of course at instructor's discretion, and more serious action by the college. Please see the WSC Bulletin for the College policy on academic honesty.  Consult with me if you are unsure about what constitutes plagiarism.

Assignments and Grade Breakdown:

>Reading Quizzes: (30%) Unannounced quizzes to reward students for keeping up with the reading. Missed quizzes cannot be made up.

>Class Participation and Attendance:  (10% plus possible deductions from final average) Merely attending class but not participating is unsatisfactory.  Thoughtful, active, and respectful participation in class discussion and group work is expected in this class.  In addition, preparation for class discussion, through reading, note taking, and fulfillment of specific reading/writing homework assignments is included in this portion of your grade. Participation assessment:

You contribute thoughtfully to class discussion every day                                  A range

            You contribute to class discussion many days                                                    B range

            You contribute occasionally and answer questions when asked                          C range

You rarely contribute to class discussion                                                                      D range

You never contribute to class discussion and never answer questions                F

Any absences will reduce participation grade somewhat. Excessive absences will result in a reduction of OVERALL AVERAGE. Students may miss 5 classes during the semester.  Two lates = one absence.  For each additional absence, I will deduct one point from the student's final overall course average.  Students who attend every class will have two points added to their final course average.   Also remember that disruptive behavior such as using electronic devices (checking cell phones, texting, ipods), leaving class (except in emergency), doing work not related to class, and off-topic chatting with classmates will hurt participation grade. Cell phones should be turned off (not on vibrate) and put away during class.  If you need to keep your phone on for an emergency, please let me know before class, and if you use a handheld device as an assignment planner, please let me know so I don't think you are texting; otherwise, I will assume you are not paying attention and are not participating in class.

>Student Discussion Facilitators Assignment: (15%) Periodically, students will bring to class discussion questions based on the day's assigned reading.  Questions with answers and specific page / passage references will be turned in at beginning of class period and graded. See assignment sheet on page 10 for more details.

> Paper #1: Documented Book Review (15%) (4 pages double-spaced) Drawing on other book reviews and biographical research, your review of either Absolutely True Diary or Miko Kings will give readers a sense of the author's background, the novel's plot, themes, and style, and your assessment of the novel's successes and failures.   See assignment sheet on page 11 for details.

>Paper #2: Event Response: (10%) (3 pages double-spaced) Requires you to attend and write about an evening campus event: either "Antidote to Columbus Poetry Reading" or Jeff Barnaby Film Screening and Discussion Your paper should draw a connection between that event and one or more class readings, linking details from presentation/event and details from one or more passages in our reading. See assignment sheet on p.12 for details.  Mark your calendars now for these events, which will take place on Tuesday evening(10/12) and Wednesday evening (10/27).  >Paper #3: Critical Article Response (20%) (6 pages double-spaced) A summary and response of a critical article about Red Earth or Nightland that draws on close reading of selected passages in the article and the novel it analyzes.  See assignment sheet on page 13-14 for more details.   



Schedule of Assignments

(This schedule is subject to minor changes. Reading assignments are due on the day listed.)


Week 1

Friday, September 1: Introduction to course and each other.


Week 2

Monday, September 6:  Labor Day, no class meeting


Wednesday, September 8:  (Due today:) Read Sherman Alexie Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian pages 1-104.  [note one copy of this book is on reserve at circulation desk of Ely Library] Alexie's official website ( includes a reader's guide to Diary.  You may wish to print this out or read it on line because we will discuss some of the questions found there in class.


Friday, September 10: (Due today: ) Read Alexie Absolutely True Diary 105-168.


Week 3: 

Monday, September 13: Conclude Alexie Absolutely True Diary 169-230.   


Wednesday, September 15: Discuss Alexie's bio and critical responses. Come to class with notes based on the below prompts:

A. Go to Sherman Alexie's official website ( and read his biography. What are some of the parallels you note between the author's life and Junior's?  What surprised you about Alexie's background?

B. By clicking on "books" in left side bar, go to page for Absolutely True Diary and scroll down to the links for reviews.  Choose one (note which one you read!), read it, and make note of one observation the reviewer makes that you found convincing.

D. Further down on the Diary page is a list of interviews with Alexie.  Choose one, listen to it (or read it), and note one comment Alexie makes about his work you find especially interesting.


Friday, September 17: Read LeAnne Howe Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story 7-24  


 Week 4:

Monday, September 20: LeAnne Howe Miko Kings 25-81  Discussion Questions from Group A


Wednesday, September 22: Howe Miko Kings 83-124  Discussion Questions from Group B


Friday, September 24: LeAnne Howe Miko Kings 125-187 Discussion Questions from Group C


Week 5:

Monday, September 27: Conclude Miko Kings 188-221  Discussion Questions from Group D


Wednesday, September 29: Bring notes to class in preparation to discuss results of your reading about Howe's biographical background and reviews of Miko Kings. Go to LeAnne Howe's weblog titled "On the Prarie Diamond" and read/respond to the following:

A. From the page titled "LeAnne Howe" ( scroll down to link for "The Official Biography" on bottom right; make note of some new insight about the author you gain there.

B. Then go to the "About Miko Kings" page on her weblog ( and read the third review from Yellow Medicine River Review.  Make note of one comment from the reviewer you found interesting.  

C. Scroll down further to the bottom of the "About Miko Kings" page to find list of interviews, and listen to the first (Focus 580 audio) interview: what was one new insight you gained into Howe's research on the origins of baseball in Native American tradition or her inspiration for the novel? 


Friday, October 1: Rough drafts of Paper 1 due for workshop. (Reminder: 15 extra credit points for taking rough draft of paper to Reading and Writing Center for revision guidance.)



Week 6:

Monday, October 4: discuss poems from I Was Indian: (page numbers indicate start page for each assigned poem): introduction-9, 15, 17, 19, 24, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37. Discussion Questions from Group A (please write your 3 questions about a range of poems)


Wednesday, October 6: Paper #1 due. Discuss poems from I Was Indian: 38, 39, 42, 44, 47, 50, 59, 62, 64, 65, 67, 68 Discussion Questions from Group B (please write your 3 questions about a range of poems)


Friday: October 8: All students: bring to class a question you would like to ask one or more of the poets speaking next week.  In class: discuss poems from I Was Indian: 69, 72, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 83, 116, 117, 118 Discussion Questions from Group C (please write your 3 questions about a range of poems)


Week 7:

Monday, October 11: No Class: Columbus Day Observed


Tuesday, October 12: Antidote to Columbus Poetry Reading 7pm Scanlon Living Room

(reminder 10 extra credit points if you ask a question during Q&A)


Wednesday October 13: Discuss Poetry panel; discuss poems from I Was Indian: 84, 85, 86, 92, 94, 97, 107, 114  Discussion Questions from Group D (please write your 3 questions about a range of poems)


Friday, October 15: Philip Red Eagle's novella "Red Earth" in collection Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey: read dedication, foreword, preface, and pages 3-23. Discussion Questions from Group A



Week 7:

Monday, October 18: conclude "Red Earth" 24-69 Discussion Questions from Group B


Wednesday, October 20: Philip Red Eagle's novella "Bois de Sioux" in collection Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey pages 73-113 Discussion Questions from Group C


Friday, October 22: "Bois de Sioux" in collection Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey pages 114-132.  Also go on line to the website " Vietnam Powwow: The Vietnam War as Remembered by Native American Veterans" and read Steve Gano's Vietnam Narrative.  Note comparisons with Red Eagle's stories.

Discussion Questions from Group D


Week 8:

Monday, October 25: Discuss critical article "Race, Feminine Power, and the Vietnam War in Philip Red Eagle's Red Earth" (provided in class). Notes on article due today.  Introduction to Jeff Barnaby short films


Wednesday October 27: Notes on Jeff Barnaby readings and one question for the filmmaker due.  Discuss Event Response Paper assignment. Tonight! Jeff Barnaby Film Screening and Discussion 7pm Wilson Auditoriums A and B (reminder 10 extra credit points if you ask a question during Q&A)


Friday October 29: Discuss Barnaby event.


Week 9:

Monday November 1: Paper #2:Event Response Due today.  Expect quiz on Louis Owens, Nightland Chapters 1-5 (pages 1-51).  Discussion Questions from Group A


Wednesday, November 3: Nightland Chapters 6-10 (pages 52-82) Discussion Questions from Group B


Friday, November 5: Nightland Chapters 11-19 (pages 83-125) Discussion Questions from Group C


Week 10:

Monday, November 8: Nightland Chapters 20-25 (pages 125-171)  Discussion Questions from Group D


Wednesday, November 10:  Louis Owens, Nightland Chapters 26-end 172-217


Friday, November 12: Discuss article "Nightland and the Mythic West" by Linda Helstern (provided in class); notes on critical article due today.  Discuss Paper #2.



Week 11: 

Monday, November 15: Rough Draft of Paper 3 for workshop.  (Reminder: 15 extra credit points for taking rough draft of paper to Reading and Writing Center for revision guidance.)


Wednesday, November 17: film screening TBA


Friday, November 19: Paper 3 DUE. film screening TBA


Week 12: 

Monday, November 22: film screening TBA


Wednesday, November 17 and Friday, November 19: No class, Thanksgiving Break


Week 13:

Monday, November 29: Short Stories from Susan Power Roofwalker Discussion Questions from Group A



Wednesday, December 1: Short Stories from Susan Power Roofwalker Discussion Questions from Group B


Friday, December 3: Short Stories from Susan Power Roofwalker Discussion Questions from Group C



Week 13

Monday, December 6: Short Stories from Susan Power Roofwalker Discussion Questions from Group D



Wednesday, December 8:  Short Stories from Susan Power Roofwalker Make-Up Round of Discussion Questions


Friday, December 10: Last class! course reflections and evaluations.












Internet Resources on Native American literature

Internet School Library Media Center Native American Author Page. You'll find biography, bibliography, lesson plans, online etexts and critical reviews of selected authors whose works are taught in the public schools or at the university level. Literature includes both adult and juvenile.  [this page is outdated 2000, so a number of the links are dead. nonetheless a useful author list with critical / pedagogical material and e-texts]

A library of information about indigenous nations and peoples (past and present) of the world. Features major sections on Nations and Peoples, Documents and Materials, Geographic Regions and a Picture Gallery of selected images.  Includes special section on Native American Authors Online! (with helpful links to bio, book reviews, etc.) nline

contains information on Native American poets and novelists. Toward this end, most of the sites residing here have been constructed with the collaboration of the authors. A useful and fairly current page.  Listed by tribal membership. Great resource

Internet Public Library/ Native American Authors: This website provides information on Native North American authors with bibliographies of their published works, biographical information, and links to online resources including interviews, online texts and tribal websites. Currently the website primarily contains information on contemporary Native American authors, although some historical authors are represented.

University of Virginia E-text Native American literature available on line--comprehensive collection of 19th and early 20th-century texts on line. n=classiclit&cdn=education&tm=7187&gps=518_760_1020_619&f=00&am p;tt=14&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//

James Madison U: Internet School Library Media Center Native American page. You will find bibliographies, directories to pages of individual tribes, history and historical documents, periodicals and general links. The ISLMC is a preview site for teachers, librarians, students and parents. You can search this site, use an index or sitemap.

Vietnam Powwow: The Vietnam War as Remembered by Native American Veterans [a machine-readable transcription]

The Native Writers Digital Text Project brings the works of Native poets and writers of fiction and other prose to readers world wide. Featuring out-of-print literary efforts of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and First Nations people of Canada, the project seeks to broaden the definition of "Native Writing" not only by focusing on writers who are not ordinarily anthologized, but also by publishing works which originally appeared in "ephemeral" sources and the periodical press, especially in those publications edited and produced by Natives.


Index of Native American Resources on the Internet

"This extensive index provides links to a wide array of resources on Native American history, literature, art, articles on Native American history, language, movies, and other topics.  Of particular interest is the collection of electronic texts that includes primary historical documents as well as books, stories, and articles written by Native authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" (Goebel from Reading Native American Literature a Teachers Guide).


Native American History and Culture--Smithsonian Institution ian_History.htm


"This site offers information on a variety of Native American resources, particularly those provided by museums and universities.  It also presents a number of selected exhibitions, such as a gallery of Native American portraits and an activity that explains how to read a buffalo hide painting.  This site concludes with links to a variety of bibliographies that focus on Native American tribes or issues". (Goebel from Reading Native American Literature a Teachers Guide).


NativeWeb-- Resrouces for Indigenous Cultures around the World

"This is an issues-oriented news and information site targeted at a Native audience.  It includes articles on topics ranging from current events to sports and music and provides links to thousands of sites of concern to indigenous peoples. Particularly useful is the link to specific U.S. tribal websites". (Goebel from Reading Native American Literature a Teachers Guide).

The Indigenous Studies Portal (iPortal) connects faculty, students, researchers and members of the community with electronic resources: books, articles, theses, documents, photographs, archival resources, maps, etc. The vision of the Indigenous Studies Portal is to provide one place to look to find resources for Indigenous studies. This is a major undertaking and we have only just begun. The Indigenous Studies Portal is an initiative of the University of Saskatchewan Library. As of March, 2010, the iPortal has more than 21,000 records, including the Our Legacy archival records recently harvested. This includes photos, anthropological field notes, diaries, correspondence and other textual documents.


ENGL 328 / Diana                                                                                                      Fall 2010

Student Discussion Facilitators Assignment

Your assigned group is (circle one):  A  B  C  D 


Worth a combined 15% of your final average, this assignment asks you, periodically, to prepare discussion questions based on the dayís assigned reading.  The purpose of the assignment is to promote active reading and engagement with the text and to be sure that all students contribute to our class discussions.  You will be assigned a group (A, B, C, or D), and the syllabus indicates the days on which your group will be responsible for bringing in questions.  You will see on our daily schedule that each group is assigned to bring questions in five times over the course of the semester.  At the end of the semester, you will have an opportunity for one make-up round of questions. Your job on those days will be to reflect on the reading and formulate thoughtful questions that help the class notice patterns, recurring themes, aspects of characterization, stylistic devices or connections to other texts you believe will enhance our understanding of the reading.  You will hand in a copy of your questions to me at the beginning of class, and I will expect you to pose at least one of your questions in class that day.  If you are absent on the day your group's discussion leader questions are due, you will not receive credit for that round of questions.  The guidelines below specify requirements for this assignment. When I grade your discussion questions, I will use these guidelines as evaluation criteria:


1.  You should formulate THREE questions for each discussion leader day. After each question, you should write a brief ANSWER (2-5 sentences) to which you can refer in discussion once classmates have had a chance to respond to your questions.


2. Please include page numbers next to each of your three questions indicating the passage(s) to which your question refers. Your questions must refer to specific passages from the pages assigned for that day's class  (this way, your questions will demonstrate that you have kept up with the reading).  Questions may point back to earlier passages for the purpose of comparison or tracing a pattern, but they must zoom in on a passage from the day's assigned reading in order to receive credit.


3. On each day your group has been assigned discussion leader responsibilities, you should bring in your own individual questions (this is not a group work assignment).  Often it is possible to find discussion questions for some readings on line, and I encourage you to consult these, but your questions should be original, reflecting your own work.  If you choose to consult any outside source (which is NOT a requirement of this assignment), you must cite that source.


4. To receive credit, questions must be turned in at beginning of class period.  Therefore, you should print two copies, one to turn in to me and one to use as reference during class discussion. This requirement prevents students from writing questions in class.  Late questions--including those submitted during or at the end of class period--will not be accepted.


5. Questions should be open-ended, not answerable with yes/no response.


6. You should contribute to class discussion on your assigned discussion leader days by raising at least one of the questions you formulated.  In some cases, I may review your questions quickly and ask you to pose one to the class.  At other times, I will ask you to choose your favorite question but to avoid duplicating classmates' questions. Please do NOT immediately read your own answer to the question you've posed.  The goal is that your question will spark discussion among your classmates.


*For some good models of open-ended discussion questions, see the reader's guide to Alexie's Absolutely True Diary, available on Alexie's official website.

Diana / English 328:Native American Literature                                                       Fall 2010


Paper #1: Documented Book Review Assignment Description


Worth 15% of your overall average, this assignment asks you to write a review of either Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Miko Kings to give readers a more precise understanding of the author's background, the novel's themes and style, and your assessment of the novel's successes and failures.  Your review will draw on other book reviews, interviews, and biographical essays on the author and will add to the conversation surrounding the novel by discussing a detail of the novel not covered in those other materials.  


Questions your review should answer:

>What are some of the most important issues this novel tackles?

>What biographical background on the author do readers need to know in order to understand

better the novel's themes, plot, and style?

>What have reviewers praised about the novel?

>What do you consider the novel's successes?  Its failures?

> What has the author said about her/his goals in writing the novel? About the writing process?

> What new insight has the supplemental reading you've done given you into the novel?  How

has your supplemental reading changed your understanding of one aspect of the text NOT discussed by reviewers or the author him/herself?

>How do the details of specific passages from the novel demonstrate your answers to the above



Guidelines and Requirements:

>Your review should be 4 full pages long, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12pt. font. No

extra spaces between paragraphs.

>Your review should have an original title that hints at the topics you'll discuss.

>Your review should directly quote at least once from each of the following:

            a. the author's biography;

            b. a book review on the novel

            c. an interview with the author.

 >Your review should zoom in on specific examples from the novel (using direct quotes) to

illustrate the points you make.

>Unlike some of the book reviews you've read, your review is intended for readers who HAVE

already read the novel, so you do not need to summarize the plot.

>Your review should follow MLA style guidelines for in-text citation of quoted and paraphrased

material and for a Works Cited page that lists the novel and secondary sources used.


Grading Criteria:

 I will assess how clearly your review answers the above questions, the degree to which you meet the above requirements, and the review's overall clarity, organization, and readability. Late papers will lose one letter grade per day late.  Missing peer review workshop on Friday 10/1 or not providing peers with thoughtful feedback will deduct points from grade on this assignment.


Due Dates: Fri 10/1 Rough draft for workshop; Wed 10/6: Paper #1 due.

English 328: Native American Literature / Diana                                                      Fall 2010

Paper #2: Event Response Paper Assignment Description


This semester, Westfield State will host two Native American speaker events whose presentations are directly tied to our course: poets who contributed to the collection I Was Indian (before being Indian was cool), one of our assigned texts, will give an "Antidote to Columbus Poetry Reading" on Tuesday evening 10/12 and Canadian Mi'gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby will offer a screening and discussion of his latest short film in the horror/suspense genre, "File Under Miscellaneous," just in time for Halloween, Wednesday evening 10/27. Mark your calendars now for these events: you are required to attend at least one (the second can count as extra credit). Worth 10% of your final average, your Event Response Paper will reflect on one of these presentations, drawing connections between the speaker's comments and details from one of our class readings.  Your job is to attend the event, take good notes, and then demonstrate what new insights into Native American studies and one of our class readings you've gained as a result of the event.   


Questions your event response paper should answer:

>What biographical background on the speaker(s) help you understand their artistic work?

> What did the speaker say about her/his artistic goals and process?

>What are some of the most important details you took away from this presentation?

>What were your impressions of the artist's work?

>What new insights have you reached about Native American studies as a result of the event?

How do specific details from the presentation demonstrate these insights? 

>What new insights have you reached about one text we've read in class as a result of the

event? How do the details of specific passages from that text demonstrate these insights?


Guidelines and Requirements:

>Your event response should be 3 full pages long, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12pt.

font. No extra spaces between paragraphs.

>Your response should have an original title that hints at the topics you'll discuss.

>Your response should be illustrated with numerous specific details from the presentation (direct

quotes or close, accurate paraphrases)and at least two examples from the class text to

support your discussion.  Use MLA format for in-text citation of quotes.

>As with any paper that quotes from outside sources, this response will include a Works Cited

page with entries for both the class text and the lecture discussed.  To cite a lecture in

your Works Cited, follow this format:


Last name, first name. Title of Lecture. Guest Lecture Series. Westfield State University.            Building location. Day month year.


Grading Criteria:

I will assess how clearly and thoroughly your event response paper answers the above questions and meets the above requirements, as well as the review's overall clarity, organization, and readability. Event Response Paper is due in class on Monday 11/1. Late papers will lose one letter grade per day late.

Diana/ English 328: Native American Literature                                          Fall 2010

Paper #3: Critical Article Response Assignment Description


Critics write articles about literary texts to help other readers see the work from a new perspective.  By writing and publishing their analyses of literature, critics contribute to a public critical dialogue about a particular author's craft and the cultural, historical, and artistic context in which the author writes. The purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to one critical approach to Native American literature, to develop your skills in reading and understanding literary analysis, and to help you refine your own interpretation of the novel you select as you enter into a critical dialogue with the author of the article.  This assignment asks you to choose the critical article on either Philip Red Eagle's Red Earth or Louis Owens' Nightland and to write a letter to the critic in which you summarize, analyze, and respond to that article.  Paper #3 is worth 20% of your course average.


********************************************************************* ******************

Step One: Read and Understand the Article


Literary criticism involves complex, multifaceted arguments and often uses jargon that can be unfamiliar to student readers.  Therefore, reading your article a few times, taking notes, and looking up new vocabulary will be necessary for full understanding. These questions are a guide to prepare your initial notes for your essay.  These questions are not intended to serve as an outline for your final draft.


What does the title tell you about the focus and point of the article?


What is the approach, focus, and point of this essay?  What kinds of questions does the critic ask about the text and what answers does the article provide?  In what kinds of contexts does it place this literary work?  What does it care about?


What is the thesis (the author's main argument)?  Is it stated in a sentence--a paragraph??  Is it broken into parts?  Remember that a critical article might make a series of related claims about a novel, so you may identify multiple parts to a thesis.


What kinds of evidence does the article use to prove its thesis (textual analysis? historical materials--if so what kind? theoretical ideas? material from other critics or novels? other things?)?  Is this evidence persuasive, interesting, and well-used?


What aspects of the novel does this essay emphasize?  What does it ignore? What specific scenes from the novel or autobiography seem related to the topic of the critical article you chose but don't get mentioned as examples in the article?


Do you find this writer's interpretation convincing, or do you take issue with her/him? 


CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ;>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Step Two: Write your Response Letter


Working from your answers to the above questions, write a letter to the author of the article.  Your letter should include ALL of the following elements.  While this list is useful as a checklist, it does not suggest an outline.  The following categories will overlap in your letter.


 a. Summarize this writer's argument: in your own words, offer the main points your critic makes about the text and describe how s/he makes the case.  Why is this necessary?  By summarizing the article, you are indicating that you understand the critic's argument.  In any productive dialogue, one wants to be heard and understood accurately.  So your letter might include lines such as, "As I understand it, this is the argument you are making about Nightland is"; "You focus on x, and use x evidence";  " I found especially convincing your point that x, but what about y?"  You should demonstrate that you understand the critic's main points and can "translate" them into plain English. 


b Respond to the writer's arguments.  Remember you are having a civil conversation with this writer: let the writer know what aspects of her/his analysis you agree and disagree with. Specify how.  Discuss specific moments in her/his article that you find convincing or unconvincing and why. Directly quoting the critic will help you pinpoint these moments. It is appropriate and useful to ask the critic questions.


c. Draw the writer's attention to an issue that s/he hasn't adequately addressed.  What ADDITIONAL scenes or details in the novel that are NOT discussed in the article do you find relevant and connected to the topic of the article? This step requires you to quote directly from the novel.


d.  Conclude by discussing ways in which the critical article has enhanced your reading of the novel: what new perspectives, details, questions, knowledge, or ideas can you thank the critic for? 



> This response will be a letter, so you should use your own address as a header and then address

your letter to the author of the article (Dear Professor Helstern).  You do not need to give

your letter a title.

>Your letter should be 6 full pages long, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12pt font, with no

extra spaces between paragraphs.

>Include a Works Cited list citing both the article and the novel, and be sure to follow MLA

guidelines for in-text citation when quoting both texts in your letter.



Grading Criteria: Your grade will be based on how clearly and accurately you present ideas in the article and your own ideas, as well as your inclusion of ALL the above elements in your letter.  Remember organization should be clear--using the above lists as outlines is not recommended.  Paper #3 is due Friday, November 19.  Late papers will lose one letter grade per day late.