ENGLISH 400-03

Topics in American Literature After 1900: Leslie Marmon Silko

Spring 2004 * R. M . Nelson * RyH303-K / 289-8311 / <rnelson@richmond.edu>



This seminar will devoted to a study of the work of Laguna Pueblo writer/photographer Leslie Marmon Silko (1948- ), with emphasis on her novels (Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead, and Gardens in the Dunes) but also with significant attention to her collection Storyteller and to her nonfiction production, including poetry (Laguna Woman), letters (The Delicacy of Strength and Lace), narrative photography (Sacred Water), and film (Arrowboy and the Witches).

Books by Silko:
Laguna Woman (Greenfield Review P, 1974; Flood Plain P, 1994)
Ceremony (Viking,1977)
Storyteller (Viking, 1981)
(Anne Wright, ed.) The Delicacy of Strength and Lace: Letters between Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright (Graywolf P,1986)
Almanac of the Dead (Simon & Schuster,1991)
Sacred Water (Flood Plain P,1993)
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit (Simon & Schuster1996)
(with Lee Marmon) Rain (Whitney Museum,1996)
Gardens in the Dunes (Simon & Schuster, 1999)

Books about Silko:
Per Seyersted, Leslie Marmon Silko (Boise State U P, 1980).
Melody Graulich ed., "Yellow Woman," Leslie Marmon Silko (Rutgers U P, 1993).
Greg Salyer, Leslie Marmon Silko (Twayne, 1997).
Helen Jaskoski, Leslie Marmon Silko: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne, 1998).
Louise Barnett and James Thorson, eds., Leslie Marmon Silko: A Collection of Critical Essays (U New Mexico P, 1999).
Ellen Arnold, ed., Conversations with Leslie Marmon Silko (UP of Mississippi, 2000).
Alan Chavkin, ed., Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony: A Casebook (Oxford U P, 2002).


ATTENDANCE POLICY:

I'm required by University policy to state in writing my attendance policy for this course. Since I must state one, I also intend to abide by it quite strictly. Read and heed, then:

I'll expect you to attend classes regularly. If for any reason you miss 4 or more class meetings, your final grade will go down by .33 grade-point for the fourth absence and for every absence thereafter.


OUR MISSION

According to the English Department's own website,

All English majors take two versions of a course called English 400: Junior/Senior Seminar, and each course involves intensive, carefully supervised research into a selected topic and the production of a long research paper written over a period of several weeks. This project introduces students, in a particularly focused or intensive fashion, to the methods of research that characterize the field of literary studies.

Our collective topic is the collected writing of Leslie Silko; each seminar participant will work with the seminar director (me) to devise a course of "intensive, carefully supervised research," and each seminar participant will probably chose to pursue a different "selected topic."

For more on that "long research paper," see below. Our class time together will be used to talk about our collective topic, though of course all participants are also always welcome (in fact, encouraged) to bring their individual projects to the table, either to share research techniques and/or discoveries or to seek input from other participants (or both).


YOUR WRITING

(1) seminar paper
Because this is a seminar, your single most important project will be your seminar paper. This paper should demonstrate your research skills as well as your analytical acumen and intellectual mastery of your materials. I'm expecting the final product to be in the neighborhood of 15-20 pages.

I want to be available as much as I can to help you identify and narrow your research topic, and so I'm planning to set aside more than 20 hours a week for office conferences, both mornings and afternoons. I encourage you to drop in any time (the sooner the better, probably) to talk about your project or about anything else that might touch on your performance in this seminar.

(2) other writing
In addition to your seminar paper, you should plan to generate least 6 short (1 - 3 pp.) papers, spaced out through the semester. These may be much less formal than the "usual" paper; I invite short position papers, and/or "response essays," and/or focused exploratory (rather than authoritative) papers, and a given essay might deal with a primary text, or with a supplemental reading given in the syllabus, or on some essay/article/work you've stumbled across during yr own research, or (of course) on the relationship between two primary texts, or between two supplemental texts, or between a primary and a supplemental text. Plot summary or mere rehash of in-class discussion are, of course, to be eschewed.

At a minimum, you should plan to submit six of these short essays on the following schedule:

Beyond these minima, you should feel perfectly free to submit as many additional short essays as you wish, as long as you don't dump several in my lap at the very end of the seminar (by then, I'll have your research paper to keep me busy) - the more you show me, the more certain I can be about what you're capable of (and willing to try).


Class schedule and readings (in addition to primary texts)

jan
13-15 contexts (Native American Renaissance; Indian > Pueblo > Laguna; oralcy and literacy, oral and written performance)

context readings:
      Nelson, "Leslie Silko, Storyteller" (<http://oncampus.richmond.edu /~rnelson/silko.cam.html>).
      Silko, "Introduction" (Yellow Woman 13-24); "Old and New Biographical Notes" (Yellow Woman 196-200); "An Old-Time Indian Attack Conducted in Two Parts" (1977)
      Kenneth Lincoln, "Introduction: 'Sending a Voice,'" Native American Renaissance (U California P, 1983).



jan
20-22 Storyteller
27-29 Storyteller

Storyteller readings:
      Silko, "Interior and Exterior Landscapes"(Yellow Woman 25-47); Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective" (Yellow Woman 48-59); "Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit" (Yellow Woman 60-72).
Linda Danielson, "Storyteller: Grandmother Spider's Web" (Journal of the Southwest 30.3 [Autumn 1988]: 325-55).
      Peter Biedler, ed., "Silko's Originality in 'Yellow Woman'" (SAIL 8.2 [Summer 1996]: 61-84; online at <http://oncampus.richmond.edu/faculty/ASAIL/SAIL2/82.html#61>).
      Helen Jaskoski, Leslie Marmon Silko: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne, 1998).



feb
3 "Running on the Edge of the Rainbow" (1982)
5 Stolen Rain: "Arrowboy and the Witches" (1980) (alternately entitled "Estoy-muut and the Gunnadeyah")

video readings:
      Toby C.S. Langen, "Estoy-eh-muut and the Morphologists," SAIL 1.1 [Summer 1989]: 1-12).
      Nelson, chapter 14 ("Arrowboy") of Flesh and Bone



feb
10-12 Ceremony
17-19 Ceremony
24-26 Ceremony

Ceremony readings:
      Kenneth Roemer, "Silko's Arroyos as Mainstream" in Alan Chavkin, ed., Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony: A Casebook (Oxford U P, 2002), 223-40. [note: this casebook is loaded with seminal essays on Ceremony].
      Nelson, "The Function of the Landscape of Ceremony" in Chavkin's Casebook 139-73; available online at <http://oncampus.richmond.edu/~rnelson/PandV/ceremony.html>.
      _____, "CORE Ceremony: Index of Some Local Resources" (online at <http://oncampus.richmond.edu/~rnelson/mapping/index.html>); Flesh and Bone stuff online (<http://oncampus.richmond.edu/~rnelson/).
      Paula Gunn Allen, "Special Problems Teaching Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony" in Alan Chavkin (ed.), Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony: A Casebook , 83-90.



mar
2-4 Almanac of the Dead
9-11 {Spring Break}
16-18 Almanac of the Dead
Tu 23 Almanac of the Dead

Almanac readings:
      Silko, 13 Almanac-period essays in Yellow Woman (73-165).
      Laura Coltelli, "Almanac of the Dead: An Interview with Leslie Marmon Silko" (1993; rpt. in Arnold, ed., Conversations with Leslie Marmon Silko, 119-45).



mar
Th 25 Sacred Water

Sacred Water readings:
      Silko, 5 essays in Yellow Woman (166-95).



mar - apr
30-1 Gardens in the Dunes
 7-9  Gardens in the Dunes

Gardens in the Dunes readings:
      Silko, "Interior and Exterior Landscapes," Yellow Woman 25-47.
      Ellen Arnold, "Listening to the Spirits: An Interview with Leslie Marmon Silko" (1998; rpt. in Arnold, ed., Conversations with Leslie Marmon Silko); available online at <http://oncampus.richmond.edu/faculty/ASAIL/SAIL2/103.html#1>).



apr
14-16 {t.b.a.}
21-23 {t.b.a.}



ENGLISH 400, Fall 2003

Topics in American Literature After 1900: Poetry of the Native American Renaissance

 Scope of the course: The Native American Renaissance (a coin termed by critic Kenneth Lincoln in 1985) refers to the remarkable outpouring of literature written by Native Americans during the twenty-odd years between the publication of Scott Momaday's monumental novel House Made of Dawn (1968) and the Columbus Quincentennial (1992). When treated as a "movement" in American letters, it is an interesting phenomenon: though at least 300 Native American cultural traditions, including their literary traditions, have been extant for centuries, only recently have significant numbers of the heirs to those traditions begun adapting traditional materials to the conventions and values of the Euro-American literary tradition. Why during this period? And why in such astonishing numbers?

This course will survey the work of some 20 poets of the past quarter century whose work raises these and many other questions. Poets to be considered will include Carroll Arnett, Joseph Bruchac, Robert J. Conley, Charlotte DeClue, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Carter Revard, Leslie Silko, Luci Tapahonso, and Wendy Rose. All of these poets are Native American, by their own self-definition as well as by other definitive criteria used to make such distinctions between "Indian" and "non-Indian"; all save one are alive in 2003, still writing and being published.

 Required texts:

Geary Hobson, ed., The Remembered Earth (1979): includes assorted essays and short stories as well as the work of about 70 American Indian poets.

Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back (1983): includes work by 52 contemporary American Indian poets.

Class packet: supplemental texts including work published in special issues of Studies in American Indian Literatures (2.2 [Summer 1990] and 4.4 [Winter 1992]) and the anthology Returning the Gift (U of Arizona P, 1994).

Additionally, you'll be expected to read the relevant interviews and "autobiographical essays" contained (respectively) in Survival This Way (ed. Joseph Bruchac, 1987), I Tell You Now (ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 1987), and Here First (ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 2000).

 Course design: Attached is a tentative class schedule. Following the first week of introductory comments, I've planned to devote each week to the work of one major contemporary poet. Though this tentative class schedule highlights only 12 poets, I'm hoping we can work in other major and minor voices as time and interests allow. If, while browsing through an anthology, you run across a writer whose work you think is worth paying attention to, I'm perfectly willing to adjust the schedule accordingly.

Because this is a seminar, each class participant will be taking responsibility for (at least) the first hour of one class meeting during the course. I'll be passing around a sign-up list in class on 2 September, and at that time you'll need to select the week you'll be responsible for. This means you'll need to choose a poet (and a selection of that writer's poems) and begin thinking about what you want to say, and how you will present what you have to say, very soon. During the week for which you are responsible, you may elect to focus your presentation on some poet other than the one privileged by this syllabus [see "Class Schedule," below], or to focus on some relevant topic rather than on a particular writer; if so, you'll need to let me and the rest of the class know, at least a week in advance, what we're supposed to be thinking about. Apropos of such elections, some other good/important poets to consider include Sherman Alexie, Paula Gunn Allen, Peter Blue Cloud, Jimmie Durham, Nia Francisco, Lance Henson, Maurice Kenny, Adrian Louis, Nila Northsun, Ralph Salisbury, Carol Lee Sanchez, Mary Tallmountain, James Welch.)

 Papers, Exams, etc.:

(1) Beginning with the 8 September class meeting, I'll expect one short (2-3 pp.) paper from you every two-week period (a total of 6 such papers during the semester). When during each two-week period you submit a paper is up to you. What you focus on in this short paper will also be up to you; all I require is that you deal with a text or a writer covered during that two-week period and that your paper not be simply a reiteration of class notes. These papers may be "exploratory" (raising issues) rather than "authoritative" (settling them for all time).

(2) Additionally, you'll be writing a longer (c. 10-12 pp.) bibliographic essay on some contemporary Native American poet other than one of the eleven featured in the class schedule. This paper should include a comprehensive bibliography of that writer's published work along with the essay. The essay itself should focus on what's "traditional," and what's new, in/about this writer's work. Note: It's quite probable that this project will involve use of Inter-Library Loan as well as some personal correspondence; therefore I urge you to select a writer and begin your research before Fall Break.

(3) The final exam will be optional. If you take it, it will count for about 25% of your final grade for the course. You will be required, at the last regular meeting of the course (W 4 December), to elect whether or not to take a final exam.

(4) Your final grade will be based on the quality of your in-class presentation (c.20%), overall class participation (c.20%), bi-weekly papers (c. 50%), and bibliographical essay (c.25%); if you elect to take the final exam, the overall combined rating for these four areas of performance will account for c.75% and the exam for c. 25%. You'll note that the above percentages don't add up to 100; that's because I plan to privilege whichever category of performance you do best in and prorate the others accordingly.

 Attendance Policy:

I'm required by University policy to state in writing my attendance policy for this course. Since I must state one, I also intend to abide by it quite strictly. Read and heed, then:

I'll expect you to attend classes regularly. If for any reason you miss 4 or more class meetings, your final grade will go down by .33 grade-point for the fourth absence and for every absence thereafter.


Class Schedule



26, 28 Aug    Intros: "traditional" Native American poetics & contexts (ritual poetry, the narrative texture of storytelling)
CRIT: Wiget, Native American Literature chapters 1, 2, 5; Hobson, "Remembering the Earth" (RE 1-11); Allen, "Iyani: It Goes This Way" (RE 191-93)



2, 4 Sept    Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)
(RE:) Ellis Island; First Deer; Birdfoot's Grampa; The Remedies; The Geyser; Three Poems for the Indian Steelworkers; Elegy for Jack Bowman
CRIT: "Notes of a Translator's Son" (ITYN); "The Many Roots of Song" (xerox)
        (cp. Maurice Kenny)



9, 11 Sept    Simon Ortiz (Pueblo of Acoma)
(RE:) Heyaashi Guutah; Time to Kill in Gallup; A San Diego Poem: January-February 1973; Dry Root in a Wash; To Insure Survival; Yuusthiwa; The Boy and Coyote; The Significance of a Veteran's Day
(SE:) My Father's Song; A New Story; From From Sand Creek; Indian Guys at the Bar
(xerox:) coyote poems from A Good Journey; Making Quiltwork; And the Land Is Just as Dry
CRIT: "The Language We Know" (ITYN); "The Story Never Ends" (STW)



16, 18 Sept    Leslie Silko (Pueblo of Laguna)
(RE:) When Sun Came to Riverwoman; Horses at Valley Store; Slim Man Canyon; Story From Bear Country
(SE:) Where Mountainlion Laid Down With Deer; Toe'osh: A Laguna Coyote Story
(xerox:) Indian Song: Survival; selections from Storyteller
CRIT: "An Old-Time Indian Attack" (RE211-16); "Landscape and the Pueblo Imagination" (xerox)
        cf. Paula Gunn Allen



23, 25 Sept    Joy Harjo (Creek)
(RE:) 3 AM; Too Far Into Arizona; Someone Talking
(SE:) Anchorage; Remember; New Orleans; She Had Some Horses; Crossing the Border Into Canada
(xerox:) I Give You Back; Deer Woman
CRIT: "Oklahoma: The Prairie of Words" (RE 43-45); "The Story of All Our Survival" (STW); "Ordinary Spirit" (ITYN)
        Cp. Kimberly Blaeser, Trailing You



30 Sep, 2 Oct    Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
(RE:) Heritage; Blessings; Mosquitoes; Celebration: Birth of a Colt; Thanksgiving; Oil
(SE:) Song For My Name; Cities Behind Glass; Saint Coyote; Black Hills Survival Gathering, 1980
CRIT: "To Take Care of Life" (STW); "The Two Lives" (ITYN)
        (cf. Carol Lee Sanchez)



          [fall break]

16 Oct    Robert J. Conley (Cherokee)
(RE:) Self-Portrait; The Rattlesnake Band; We Wait
(SE:) untitled; Tom Starr; Ned Christie; Wili Woyu, Shaman, also known as Billy Pigeon; The Hills of Tsa la gi
        



21, 23 Oct    Carter Revard and Charlotte DeClue (Osage)
(RE:) Ponca War Dancers; People From the Stars; Wazhazhe Grandmother
(SE:) {DeClue pieces}
(xerox) Birch Canoe; An Eagle Nation; Given; A Brief Guide to American History Teachers; When Earth Brings; Voices; Ijajee's Story; '61; Place-of-Many-Swans; Healing; In the Spirit of Monahsetah; OKLAHOMA
CRIT: "Something That Stays Alive" (STW); "Walking Among the Stars" (ITNY); "The Good Red Road" (HF)



28, 30 Oct    Gogisgi / Carroll Arnett (Cherokee)
(RE:) The Story of My Life; Powwow; uwohali; Tlanuwa; Roadman; Early Song; Homage to Andrew Jackson
(SE:) Bio-Poetic Statement; Ahoyu Kanogisdi; The Old Man Said; Look Back; Last May; Song of the Breed
        (cf. Jimmy Durham, Columbus Day; Lance Henson, Roxie Gordon, Geary Hobson, Adrian Louis)

4, 6 Nov    Scott Momaday (Kiowa)
(RE:) Headwaters; Rainy Mountain Cemetery; The Fear of Bo-talee; The Story of a Well-Made Shield; The Horse That Died of Shame; The Gourd Dancer
(SE:) The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee; The Colors of Night; The Eagle-Feather Fan
CRIT: "The Man Made of Words" (RE 162-73); "The Magic of Words" (STW)
        cf. James Welch, Riding the Earthboy 40



11, 13 Nov    Luci Tapahonso (Navajo)
(RE:) Conversations; For Lori Tazbah; Misty Dawn
(SE:) The Belly of the Land; It Was a Special Treat; Sheepherder Blues; Hills Brothers Coffee; The Dust Will Settle
(xerox:) Light a Candle; The Pacific Dawn; In 1864; The Motion of Songs Rising; Remember the Things They Told Us; Blue Horses Rush In
CRIT: "The Way It Is" (xerox in Library)
        Cp: Laura Tohe, No Parole Today



18, 20 Nov    Wendy Rose (Hopi/Miwok)
(RE:) To Some Few Hopi Ancestors; For the White poets who would be Indians; Indian Anthropologist; Three Thousand Dollar Death Song; Trickster: 1977; Soul Tattoos
(SE:) The Well-Intentioned Question; Sarah: Cherokee Doctor; Julia; How I Came to Be a Graduate Student; Loo-wit
CRIT: "Neon Scars" (ITYN); "The Bones Are Alive" (STW)
        Cp: Deborah Miranda, Indian Cartography

[Thanksgiving break]

2, 4 Dec    wrap-ups


 

English 541
St/Am Lit: American Indian Prose and Poetry

Fall 2000

SCOPE OF THE SEMINAR

This course is about texts of prose fiction and poetry composed by Native Americans.

Until quite recently, there were plenty of texts about Native American life, ranging from obscure journal reports beginning in the 1500s up through the surrender speeches of the 18th and 19th centuries, the "as-told-to" personal narratives and ethnography being collected around the turn of the past century, and any number of other accounts, sympathetic and otherwise, of Native American life, presented either as fiction or as nonfiction. But these are all "etic" texts--texts written by non-Natives, "outsiders" looking "in"-- rather than "emic" texts, that is, works in which the representation of Native American identity is controlled by Indians themselves. Even such classic works as Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks and Cushing's Zuñi Folk Tales are, finally, works about Native American literary performances; but they are not Native American texts. Most of the readings for this course are emic Native American works (or critical analyses of such texts).

Most of the texts are also products of the second half of the twentieth century. This does not reflect any particular prejudice of mine towards contemporary literature, but rather reflects one of the interesting aspects of Native American literary traditions in general: only very recently have many Indian verbal artists begun to work in the medium of print. In 1985 critic Kenneth Lincoln popularized the term "Native American Renaissance" to label the remarkable outpouring of literature written by Native Americans during the last two and a half decades or so (c. 1968-present). When treated as a literary "movement" it is an interesting phenomenon: at least 300 Native American cultural traditions, including their literary traditions, have been extant for centuries, but only recently have significant numbers of the heirs to those traditions begun adapting traditional materials to the conventions and values of the Euro-American literary tradition. Why now? And why in such astonishing numbers?

Thanks to the peculiar history of US government policy with respect to American Indians from the 1870s onwards, English is the first or second language of all of these writers, and all these writers have been thoroughly exposed to the dominant culture's institutions and values. Consequently, the works featured in this course will probably strike most readers as recognizably works of American literature, in that they contend with themes and issues that can be said to characterize 20c American literature (and culture) generally. Here's the catch: part of the American cultural ethos is the idea that Native Americans are a distinct cultural and ethnic entity, and therefore this literature must have some characteristic "Indianness" (that is, some characteristic "un-Americanness") about it.

Going along with this fiction, we'll be looking first at Roy Harvey Pearce's study of how Euroamerican cultural tradition defined this Indianness, and in so doing created the historical, political, and ethnic context--an Anglo fiction of Indianness--that later writers would have to contend with. We'll then turn our attention to some important Native American writers who have shaped their dual cultural heritage into literary works addressing, among others, the question of Indian identity. Part of that identity is, of course, encoded in the various motifs, themes, and literary techniques that, taken together, have come to characterize a Native American literary tradition; I'll try to draw attention to these elements as we go.


COURSE MATERIALS

In any course that privileges an unfamiliar cultural milieu, there's always a temptation to emphasize cultural literacy over literary literacy. This is especially true of this course, because in the traditions of almost every Native American group I know of, fixed texts (like books, movies, oil paintings) have until very recently played little or no part in the preservation, transformation, and transmission of collective or individual identity. Nevertheless, I've tried to design a syllabus that will keep us all grounded in the kinds of fixed texts most of us are used to encountering in English courses: works of prose fiction (novels), poetry, and a lot of "secondary" or "supplementary" works of literary criticism. At the same time, I've tried to select texts that (1) are generally considered to be some of the best work that has emerged in the Native American literary tradition during the past century or so and/or (2) have been written by the best writers contributing to that emerging tradition--"best" both by prevailing Anglo standards and by most Native American criteria. If there is any consensus "canon" of Native American literature, much of what you'll be reading in this course is already part of it.

I am also attaching a list of several major (or strongly up-and-coming) Native American poets. Each seminar participant will be presenting on one of these writers, so you'd do well to begin skimming through a good poetry anthology (Hobson's The Remembered Earth or Bruchac's Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back are the current classics in the field) to see who sounds interesting or familiar.

Required texts:
Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization
D'Arcy McNickle, The Surrounded
Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn
Leslie Silko, Ceremony
James Welch, The Death of Jim Loney
Louis Owens, The Sharpest Sight
Geary Hobson, The Remembered Earth

Strongly recommended secondary reading:
Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop
Leslie Silko, Storyteller
Andrew Wiget, Native American Literature
Kenneth Lincoln, Native American Renaissance
Andrew Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature
Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, eds., Recovering the Word
Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins
Edward H. Spicer, The American Indians
Robert M. Nelson, Place and Vision

Some important contemporary poets:
 Sherman Alexie (Coeur d'Alene) Carroll Arnett/Gogisgi (Cherokee)
 Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)  Robert J. Conley (Cherokee)
 Joy Harjo (Creek)  Lance Henson (Cheyenne)
 Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)  Simon Ortiz (Acoma)
 Carter Revard (Osage)  Wendy Rose (Hopi-Miwok)
 Luci Tapahonso (Navajo) Ray Youngbear (Mesquaki)

Note: Published collections of interviews with selected Native American authors include Joseph Bruchac, ed., Survival This Way; Brian Swann, ed., I Tell You Now; Laura Coltelli, ed., Winged Words; and William Balassi et al., This Is About Vision.

 


TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND PRIVILEGED ISSUES
[Note: you'll notice the syllabus gets sketchier with each projected session. That's because I want to keep the seminar "flexible": I'd like to see it become a project of the evolving concerns of those taking it.]

30 Aug
     intros; videotapes of oral performance (Rudolph Kane, "Origins of the Crown Dance" [Apache]; Helen Sekaquaptewa, "Iisaw" [Hopi])



 6 Sep
   
   (a) Pearce, Savagism and Civilization: Constructing "Indianness": types & stereotypes (literary and otherwise) of The Indian, contact-1930s: prevailing concepts of savagism (noble, vicious) and primitivism

      (b) Hobson, "The Rise of the White Shaman" (RE 100-08); Silko, "An Old-Time Indian Attack" (RE 211-16): "Whose story is this?"--sounding the issues of cultural imperialism, cultural (mis-) appropriation, cultural exploitation, cultural genocide

For a good overview of how evolving stereotypes of Native America have played out historically as (generally genocidal) US history, see Spicer, "Federal Policy toward American Indians," The American Indians 176-203; a more slanted version of Spicer's story is Ward Churchill's Fantasies of the Master Race (fasten your seatbelt!).



 13 Sep
       (a) McNickle, The Surrounded
: "Assimilate or die"; the Vanishing American motif

       (b) Sanchez, "Conversations" (RE 240-43, 249-50); Conley, "We Wait" (RE 72-73); Durham, "Columbus Day" (xerox) towards a strategy of survival: cultural dualism, cultural separatism.

This would be a good time to read Vine Deloria's Custer Died for Your Sins, esp. the opening chapter.



 20 Sep
       Momaday, House Made of Dawn
: Ambiguous survival; polyvocality; hozhoojii

Evers, "Words and Place" in Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature 211-29; Nelson, Place and Vision 41-89. For an intriguing analysis of several Navajo chantways (Blessingway, Beautyway, Mountainway) as they relate to HMOD, see Susan Scarberry-García's Landmarks of Healing.



 27 Sep
       writing oral tradition I
: from ethnography to ethnopoetics
       (a) Natonabah, "By This Song I Walk" (videotape); "By This Song I Walk" (xerox)
       (b) pieces from Boaz, Keresan Texts; pieces from Silko, Storyteller

Some seminal works in the evolution of ethnopoetics include Hymes, "Introduction" to In Vain I Tried to Tell You; Mattina, "Editing Texts for the Printed Page" (Recovering the Word 129-48); Tedlock, "On the Translation of Style" (Smoothing the Ground 57-78) and "The Spoken Word and the Word of Interpretation" in Kroeber, ed., Traditional Literatures of the American Indians 45-58. Don't miss Karl Kroeber's intro to Kroeber, ed., Traditional Literatures of the American Indians, esp. his thumbnail intro to Alan Dundes' text/texture/context schema.



 4 Oct
       writing oral tradition II: e.g., Coyote stories

       (a) Sekaquaptewa, "Iisaw" (video); Wiget, "Telling the Tale" (Recovering the Word 297-336)
       (b) a Coyote sampler: Simon Ortiz, Leslie Silko, Peter Bluecloud (xerox)

For a pan-tribal sampling of Coyote (and other trickster) stories, see Barry Lopez, Giving Birth to Thunder . . . and/or Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian TricksterTales. On the Dark Side of all this, see Barry Toelken, "Life and Death in Navajo Coyote Tales" (Recovering the Word 388-401).



 11 Oct
       writing oral tradition III: some latter-day "traditional" poets and motifs
       Tapahonso; sampler from Remembered Earth



 18 Oct
       Silko, Ceremony
       (a) the pretexts; the "body" of Story
       (b) the prose narrative

Boas, translated transcriptions from Keresan Texts (xerox); Nelson, Words and Place 11-39



 25 Oct
       
poetry



 1 Nov
       Welch, The Death of Jim Loney
: What does it take to be a "genuine" or "authentic" Indian?

Nelson, Words and Place 91-131



 8 Nov
       poetry



 15 Nov
       Owens, The Sharpest Sight
: Who sez an Injin can't be an English prof?



 22 Nov        [Thanksgiving break]



 29 Nov
       
[Alexie flick? Guest lecturer?]



 6 Dec
       TBA


materials on (closed 2-hour) reserve (filed under "English 233"):

[starred items are collections of essays or interviews]

*Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.

Boas, Franz. "The Hummingbird," "P'acayanyi," and "Kaupata." Keresan Texts. (Xerox)

Bruchac, Joseph. "The Many Roots of Song." (Xerox)

-----. "Notes of a Translator's Son." I Tell You Now. Swann and Krupat, eds. 197-205.

*-----. Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets.

Evers, Larry. "Words and Place: A Reading of House Made of Dawn." Critical Essays on Native American Literature. Andrew Wiget, ed.

Jaskoski, Helen. "Bird Songs of Southern California: An Interview with Paul Apodaca." (Xerox)

*Kroeber, Karl, ed. Traditional Literatures of the American Indian: Texts and Interpretations.

*Lincoln, Kenneth. Native American Renaissance.

Nelson, Robert M. Place and Vision: The Function of Landscape in Native American Fiction.

-----. "He Said / She Said: Writing Oral Tradition . . ." (Xerox)

Scarberry-García, Susan. Landmarks of Healing: A Study of House Made of Dawn.

Spicer, Edward H. "Federal Policy Towards American Indians." The American Indians. 176-203.

*Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds. I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers.

*-----. Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature.

*-----. Smoothing the Ground: Essays on Native American Oral Literature.

Tedlock, Dennis. "The Spoken Word and the Work of Interpretation in American Indian Religion." Traditional Literatures of the American Indian. Karl Kroeber, ed. 45-58.

-----. "On the Translation of Style . . . ." Smoothing the Ground. Swann and Krupat, eds. 57-78.

Toelken, Barre. "Life and Death in the Navajo Coyote Tales." Recovering the Word. Swann and Krupat, eds. 388-401.

Wiget, Andrew. Native American Literature.

-----, ed. Critical Essays on Native American Literature.

-----. "Telling the Tale: A Performance Analysis of a Hopi Coyote Story." Recovering the Word. Swann and Krupat, eds. 297-338.

_______________________________________

Two of these books are full of interviews with many of the writers we'll be covering in the course: Survival This Way (ed. Joseph Bruchac) and I Tell You Now (ed. Swann and Krupat).

Kenneth Lincoln's Native American Renaissance and Paula Gunn Allen's The Sacred Hoop both contain excellent essays on recent Native American literature (including essays on House Made of Dawn and Ceremony).

Also on closed reserve for this course are three transcripts of recent videotapes (available from the LRC) of "traditional" oral performances:
       "Iisaw: Hopi Coyote Stories"
       "By This Song I Walk: Navajo Song"

       "The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative"

 


ENGLISH 431, Fall 1999

Topics in American Literature After 1900: Poetry of the Native American Renaissance

 Scope of the course: The Native American Renaissance (a coin termed by critic Kenneth Lincoln in 1985) refers to the remarkable outpouring of literature written by Native Americans during the twenty-odd years between the publication of Scott Momaday's monumental novel House Made of Dawn (1968) and the Columbus Quincentennial (1992). When treated as a "movement" in American letters, it is an interesting phenomenon: though at least 300 Native American cultural traditions, including their literary traditions, have been extant for centuries, only recently have significant numbers of the heirs to those traditions begun adapting traditional materials to the conventions and values of the Euro-American literary tradition. Why during this period? And why in such astonishing numbers?

This course will survey the work of some 20 poets of the past quarter century whose work raises these and many other questions. Poets to be considered will include Carroll Arnett, Joseph Bruchac, Robert J. Conley, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Carter Revard, Leslie Silko, Luci Tapahonso, and Wendy Rose. All of these poets are Native American, by their own self-definition as well as by other definitive criteria used to make such distinctions between "Indian" and "non-Indian"; all are alive in 1999, still writing and being published.

 Required texts:

Geary Hobson, ed., The Remembered Earth (1979): includes assorted essays and short stories as well as the work of about 70 American Indian poets.

Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back (1983): includes work by 52 contemporary American Indian poets.

Class packet: supplemental texts including work published in special issues of Studies in American Indian Literatures (2.2 [Summer 1990] and 4.4 [Winter 1992]) and the forthcoming anthology Returning the Gift (U of Arizona P, 1994).

Additionally, you'll be expected to read the relevant interviews and "autobiographical essays" contained (respectively) in Survival This Way (ed. Joseph Bruchac, 1987) and I Tell You Now (ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 1987), both on reserve for this course at Boatwright Library.

 Course design: Attached is a tentative class schedule. Following the first week of introductory comments, I've planned to devote each week to the work of one major contemporary poet. Though this tentative class schedule highlights only 11 poets, I'm hoping we can work in other major and minor voices as time and interests allow. If, while browsing through an anthology, you run across a writer whose work you think is worth paying attention to, I'm perfectly willing to adjust the schedule accordingly.

Because this is a seminar, each class participant will be taking responsibility for (at least) the first hour of one class meeting during the course. I'll be passing around a sign-up list in class on 1 September, and at that time you'll need to select the week you'll be responsible for. This means you'll need to choose a poet (and a selection of that writer's poems) and begin thinking about what you want to say, and how you will present what you have to say, very soon. During the week for which you are responsible, you may elect to focus your presentation on some poet other than the one privileged by this syllabus [see "Class Schedule," below], or to focus on some relevant topic rather than on a particular writer; if so, you'll need to let me and the rest of the class know, at least a week in advance, what we're supposed to be thinking about. Apropos of such elections, some other good/important poets to consider include Sherman Alexie, Paula Gunn Allen, Peter Blue Cloud, Jimmie Durham, Nia Francisco, Lance Henson, Maurice Kenny, Adrian Louis, Nila Northsun, Ralph Salisbury, Carol Lee Sanchez, Mary Tallmountain, James Welch.)

 Papers, Exams, etc.:

(1) Beginning with the 8 September class meeting, I'll expect one short (2-3 pp.) paper from you every two-week period (a total of 6 such papers during the semester). When during each two-week period you submit a paper is up to you. What you focus on in this short paper will also be up to you; all I require is that you deal with a text or a writer covered during that two-week period and that your paper not be simply a reiteration of class notes. These papers may be "exploratory" (raising issues) rather than "authoritative" (settling them for all time).

(2) Additionally, you'll be writing a longer (c. 10-12 pp.) bibliographic essay on some contemporary Native American poet other than one of the eleven featured in the class schedule. This paper should include a comprehensive bibliography of that writer's published work along with the essay. The essay itself should focus on what's "traditional," and what's new, in/about this writer's work. Note: It's quite probable that this project will involve use of Inter-Library Loan as well as some personal correspondence; therefore I urge you to select a writer and begin your research before Fall Break.

(3) The final exam will be optional. If you take it, it will count for about 25% of your final grade for the course. You will be required, at the last regular meeting of the course (W 1 December), to elect whether or not to take a final exam.

(4) Your final grade will be based on the quality of your in-class presentation (c.20%), overall class participation (c.20%), bi-weekly papers (c. 50%), and bibliographical essay (c.25%); if you elect to take the final exam, the overall combined rating for these four areas of performance will account for c.75% and the exam for c. 25%. You'll note that the above percentages don't add up to 100; that's because I plan to privilege whichever category of performance you do best in and prorate the others accordingly.

 Attendance Policy:

I'm required by University policy to state in writing my attendance policy for this course. Since I must state one, I also intend to abide by it quite strictly. Read and heed, then:

I'll expect you to attend classes regularly. If for any reason you miss 3 or more class meetings (i.e., 25% or more of class time), your final grade will go down by .5 grade-point for the third absence and by 1.0 grade-point for every absence thereafter.


Class Schedule

25 Aug    Intros: "traditional" Native American poetics & contexts (ritual poetry, the narrative texture of storytelling)

1 Sept    Joseph Bruchac
(RE:) Ellis Island; First Deer; Birdfoot's Grampa; The Remedies; The Geyser; Three Poems for the Indian Steelworkers; Elegy for Jack Bowman
CRIT: Wiget, Native American Literature chapters 1, 2, 5; Hobson, "Remembering the Earth" (RE 1-11); Allen, "Iyani: It Goes This Way" (RE 191-93) "Notes of a Translator's Son" (ITYN); "The Many Roots of Song" (xerox at Library)
        (cf. Maurice Kenny)

8 Sept    Simon Ortiz
(RE:) Heyaashi Guutah; Time to Kill in Gallup; A San Diego Poem: January-February 1973; Dry Root in a Wash; To Insure Survival; Yuusthiwa; The Boy and Coyote; The Significance of a Veteran's Day
(SE:) My Father's Song; A New Story; From From Sand Creek; Indian Guys at the Bar
(xerox:) coyote poems from A Good Journey; Making Quiltwork; And the Land Is Just as Dry
CRIT: "The Language We Know" (ITYN); "The Story Never Ends" (STW)

15 Sept    Leslie Silko
(RE:) When Sun Came to Riverwoman; Horses at Valley Store; Slim Man Canyon; Story From Bear Country
(SE:) Where Mountainlion Laid Down With Deer; Toe'osh: A Laguna Coyote Story
(xerox:) Indian Song: Survival

22 Sept    Joy Harjo
(RE:) 3 AM; Too Far Into Arizona; Someone Talking
(SE:) Anchorage; Remember; New Orleans; She Had Some Horses; Crossing the Border Into Canada
(xerox:) I Give You Back; Deer Woman
CRIT: "Oklahoma: The Prairie of Words" (RE 43-45); "The Story of All Our Survival" (STW); "Ordinary Spirit" (ITYN)

29 Sept    Linda Hogan
(RE:) Heritage; Blessings; Mosquitoes; Celebration: Birth of a Colt; Thanksgiving; Oil
(SE:) Song For My Name; Cities Behind Glass; Saint Coyote; Black Hills Survival Gathering, 1980
CRIT: "To Take Care of Life" (STW); "The Two Lives" (ITYN)
        (cf. Diane Glancy)

          [ fall break]

13 Oct    Gogisgi / Carroll Arnett
(RE:) The Story of My Life; Powwow; uwohali; Tlanuwa; Roadman; Early Song; Homage to Andrew Jackson
(SE:) Bio-Poetic Statement; Ahoyu Kanogisdi; The Old Man Said; Look Back; Last May; Song of the Breed
(cf. Lance Henson, Roxie Gordon, Sherman Alexie)

20 Oct    Carter Revard
(RE:) Ponca War Dancers; People From the Stars; Wazhazhe Grandmother
(xerox) Birch Canoe; An Eagle Nation; Given; A Brief Guide to American History Teachers; When Earth Brings
CRIT: "Something That Stays Alive" (STW); "Walking Among the Stars" (ITNY)

27 Oct    Robert J. Conley
(RE:) Self-Portrait; The Rattlesnake Band; We Wait
(SE:) untitled; Tom Starr; Ned Christie; Wili Woyu, Shaman, also known as Billy Pigeon; The Hills of Tsa la gi

3 Nov    Scott Momaday
(RE:) Headwaters; Rainy Mountain Cemetery; The Fear of Bo-talee; The Story of a Well-Made Shield; The Horse That Died of Shame; The Gourd Dancer
(SE:) The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee; The Colors of Night; The Eagle-Feather Fan
CRIT: "The Man Made of Words" (RE 162-73); "The Magic of Words" (STW)

10 Nov    Luci Tapahonso
(RE:) Conversations; For Lori Tazbah; Misty Dawn
(SE:) The Belly of the Land; It Was a Special Treat; Sheepherder Blues; Hills Brothers Coffee; The Dust Will Settle
(xerox:) Light a Candle; The Pacific Dawn; In 1864; The Motion of Songs Rising; Remember the Things They Told Us; Blue Horses Rush In
CRIT: "The Way It Is" (xerox in Library)

17 Nov    Wendy Rose
(RE:) To Some Few Hopi Ancestors; For the White poets who would be Indians; Indian Anthropologist; Three Thousand Dollar Death Song; Trickster: 1977; Soul Tattoos
(SE:) The Well-Intentioned Question; Sarah: Cherokee Doctor; Julia; How I Came to Be a Graduate Student; Loo-wit
CRIT: "Neon Scars" (ITYN); "The Bones Are Alive" (STW)
        Cp: Carol Lee Sanchez

[Thanksgiving break]

1 Dec    wrap-ups


materials on (closed 2-hour) reserve (filed under "English 233/431"):
[starred items are collections of essays or interviews]

*Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.
Boas, Franz. "The Hummingbird," "P'acayanyi," and "Kaupata." From Keresan Texts. (Xerox)
Bruchac, Joseph. "The Many Roots of Song." (Xerox)
-----. "Notes of a Translator's Son." In I Tell You Now (ed. Swann and Krupat), pp. 197-205.
-----. Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets.
Evers, Larry. "Words and Place: A Reading of House Made of Dawn." In Critical Essays on Native American Literature (ed. Andrew Wiget).
Jaskoski, Helen. "Bird Songs of Southern California: An Interview with Paul Apodaca." (Xerox)
*Kroeber, Karl, ed. Traditional Literatures of the American Indian: Texts and Interpretations.
*Lincoln, Kenneth. Native American Renaissance.
Nelson, Robert M. "Snake and Eagle: Abel's Disease and the Landscape of House Made of Dawn." (Xerox)
-----. "He Said / She Said: Writing Oral Tradition . . ." (Xerox)
-----. "Place and Vision: The Role of Landscape in Ceremony." Journal of the Southwest 30.3: 281-316. (Offprint)
Scarberry-García, Susan. Landmarks of Healing: A Study of House Made of Dawn.
Spicer, Edward H. "Federal Policy Towards American Indians." The American Indians, pp. 176-203.
*Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds. I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers.
*----. Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature.
Tedlock, Dennis. "The Spoken Word and the Work of Interpretation in American Indian Religion." In Traditional Literatures of the American Indian: Texts and Interpretations (ed. Karl Kroeber), pp. 45-58.
Toelken, Barre. "Life and Death in the Navajo Coyote Tales." In Recovering the Word, pp. 388-401.
Wiget, Andrew. Native American Literature.
*----, ed. Critical Essays on Native American Literature.
-----. "Telling the Tale: A Performance Analysis of a Hopi Coyote Story." In Recovering the Word, pp. 297-338.

Two of these books are full of interviews with many of the writers we'll be covering in the course: Survival This Way (ed. Joseph Bruchac) and I Tell You Now (ed. Swann and Krupat).


ENGLISH 431: NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE

Fall 1993

THESIS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE COURSE:

This course is about literary texts composed by Native Americans that deal with issues of Native American identity.

Taken collectively, these works are recognizably works of American literature, in that they contend with whatever themes and issues can be said to characterize 20c American literature (and the cultural ethos encoded in that literature) generally. However, a catch lies in the context: part of the American cultural ethos is the proposition that Native Americans (or American Indians, or Indians, or First Americans, or Aborginal Peoples, or what have you) are a distinct cultural and ethnic entity, so that of course this literature should have some characteristic Indianness about it.

Going along with this fiction, we'll be looking first, briefly, at how Euroamerican cultural tradition defined this Indianness, and in so doing created the historical, political, and ethnic contextan Anglo fiction of Indiannessthat later writers would have to contend with. We'll then turn our attention to some important Native American writers who have shaped their dual cultural heritage into literary works addressing the question of Indian identity.

It's my hope that this course will cultivate your ability to read and evaluate a text with respect to its own ethnic and esthetic context, even if that context is less familiar than your own. Developing this skill will depend in turn on developing a certain degree of "cultural literacy": the ability to recognize and appreciate various motifs, themes, and literary techniques that, taken together, comprise ongoing Native American literary tradition.

COURSE MATERIALS
In any course that privileges an unfamiliar cultural milieu, there's always a temptation to emphasize cultural literacy over literary literacy. This is especially true of this course, because in the traditions of every Native American group I know of, fixed texts (like books, movies, oil paintings) play little or no part in the preservation, transformation, and transmittal of collective or individual identity.

Nevertheless, I've tried to design a syllabus that will keep us all grounded in the kinds of fixed texts most of us are used to encountering in English courses: works of prose fiction (novels), poetry, and a lot of "secondary" or "supplementary" works of literary criticism.
At the same time, I've tried to select texts that (1) are generally considered to be some of the best work that has emerged in the Native American literary tradition during the past century or so and/or (2) have been written by the best writers contributing to that emerging tradition"best" both by prevailing Anglo standards and by most Native American criteria. If there is any consensus "canon" of Native American literature, most of what you'll be reading in this course is already part of it.

In addition to the eight required texts (all novels or novel length), I've provided a "strongly recommended secondary reading" list. I expect everyone to browse in no less than five of these texts.

I am also attaching a list of several major (or strongly up-and-coming) Native American poets. Each student will be presenting on one of these writers, so you'd do well to begin skimming through a good poetry anthology (Hobson's The Remembered Earth or Bruchac's Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back are the current classics in the field) to see who sounds interesting or familiar.

required texts:
Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization (1953, 1988)
Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop (1986)
D'Arcy McNickle, The Surrounded (1936, 1964)
Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1967)
Leslie Silko, Ceremony (1977)
---, Storyteller (1981)
James Welch, The Death of Jim Loney (1979)
Louis Owens, The Sharpest Sight (1992)

strongly recommended second reading:
Andrew Wiget, Native American Literature
Kenneth Lincoln, Native American Renaissance
Andrew Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature
Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, eds., Recovering the Word
Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins
Edward H. Spicer, The American Indians
Robert M. Nelson, Place and Vision
Geary Hobson, The Remembered Earth

Some important contemporary poets:
Carroll Arnett/Gogisgi (Cherokee)
Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)
Robert J. Conley (Cherokee)
Charlotte DeClue (Osage)
Joy Harjo (Creek)
Lance Henson (Cheyenne)
Mary TallMountain (Koyukon)
Simon Ortiz (Acoma)
Wendy Rose (Hopi-Miwok)
Carol Sanchez (Laguna)
Luci Tapahonso (Navajo)
Roy Youngbear (Mesquaki)

Note: Published collections of interviews with selected Native American authors include Joseph Bruchac, ed., Survival This Way; Brian Swann, ed., I Tell You Now; and Laura Coltelli, ed., Winged Words; and William Balassi et al., This is About Vision.


TENTATIVE CLASS SCHEDULE
Here is an outline of the course as I currently imagine it. You'll note that, the farther I've projected in time, the sketchier the outline becomes; that's because I'm trying to be opportunistic, leaving some space to tailor the course to whatever individual and collective interests and concerns happen to emerge as the course progresses.

W 25, F 27

intros

M 30, W 1, F 3 September
Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization

Types & stereotypes (literary and otherwise) of The Indian, contact-1930s: prevailing concepts of savagism (Noble, vicious) and primitivism

U.S. gov't solutions to the Indian Problem: >1860s separation and removal; 1860s> de-reservation and assimilation (Spicer)

M 6, W 8, F 10
D'Arcy McNickle, The Surrounded

topos: >1930's: "assimilate or die": the Vanishing American motif)
(genre: conventional novel, pitched to Anglo audience's expectations)

M 13, W 15, F 17

brief history of NA written literary tradition;
oral tradition and the problem of genre
Wiget's categories of traditional (oral) NA literature

M 20, W 22, F 24

problem of "fixed text" in dealing w/ oral traditional lit; "as-told-to" transcription and the problem of cultural imperialism (Hobson, "White Shamanism" and Silko, "An Old-Time Indian Attack")

videotapes? sample text: "By This Song I Walk" transcript

M 27, W 29, F 1
"folktale" versions of of winterstory: Boas (anthro collect & preserve, asssumption of Myth)

M 4, W 6, F 8 October
a now-day winterstory sampler: Silko, Storyteller

genre issues: formally/structurally, collage or "assemblage" (e.g., loose); but what about thematic coherence/development?

Qs of literary pretext & context: "The Story" vs. "parts"/"stories"

Qs of text (content): polyvocalism, authorship/ownership issues

Spring Break

W 13, F 15, M 18, W 20, F 22
Momaday, "The Man Made of Words," House Made of Dawn

polyvocalism again; Event and Re-Happening ("ceremonialism"); exoticism as a function of context unfamiliarity

M 25, W 27, F 29, M 1
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

W 3, F 5
in-class presentations

M 8, W 10, F 12
Welch, The Death of Jim Loney

M 15, W 17, F 19
Owens, The Sharpest Sight

W 24-F 26 Thanksgiving break

M 29, W 1, F 3 December
in-class presentations

M 6 wrap-ups

 


 

English 541

St/Am Lit: American Indian Prose and Poetry

Fall 1996

SCOPE OF THE SEMINAR

This course is about texts of prose fiction and poetry composed by Native Americans.

Until quite recently, there were plenty of texts about Native American life, ranging from obscure journal reports beginning in the 1500s up through the surrender speeches of the 18th and 19th centuries, the "as-told-to" personal narratives and ethnography being collected around the turn of the past century, and any number of other accounts, sympathetic and otherwise, of Native American life, presented either as fiction or as nonfiction. But these are all "etic" textstexts written by non-Natives, "outsiders" looking "in" rather than "emic" texts, that is, works in which the representation of Native American identity is controlled by Indians themselves. Even such classic works as Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks and Cushing's Zuñi Folk Tales are, finally, works about Native American literary performances; but they are not Native American texts. Most of the readings for this course are emic Native American works (or critical analyses of such texts).

Most of the texts are also products of the second half of the twentieth century. This does not reflect any particular prejudice of mine towards contemporary literature, but rather reflects one of the interesting aspects of Native American literary traditions in general: only very recently have many Indian verbal artists begun to work in the medium of print. In 1985 critic Kenneth Lincoln coined the term "Native American Renaissance" to label the remarkable outpouring of literature written by Native Americans during the last two and a half decades or so (c. 1968-present). When treated as a literary "movement" it is an interesting phenomenon: at least 300 Native American cultural traditions, including their literary traditions, have been extant for centuries, but only recently have significant numbers of the heirs to those traditions begun adapting traditional materials to the conventions and values of the Euro- American literary tradition. Why now? And why in such astonishing numbers?

Thanks to the peculiar history of US government policy with respect to American Indians from the 1870s onwards, English is the first or second language of all of these writers, and all these writers have been thoroughly exposed to the dominant culture's institutions and values. Consequently, the works featured in this course will probably strike most readers as recognizably works of American literature, in that they contend with themes and issues that can be said to characterize 20c American literature (and culture) generally. Here's the catch: part of the American cultural ethos is the idea that Native Americans are a distinct cultural and ethnic entity, and therefore this literature must have some characteristic "Indianness" (that is, some characteristic "un-Americanness") about it.

Going along with this fiction, we'll be looking first at Roy Harvey Pearce's study of how Euroamerican cultural tradition defined this Indianness, and in so doing created the historical, political, and ethnic contextan Anglo fiction of Indiannessthat later writers would have to contend with. We'll then turn our attention to some important Native American writers who have shaped their dual cultural heritage into literary works addressing, among others, the question of Indian identity. Part of that identity is, of course, encoded in the various motifs, themes, and literary techniques that, taken together, have come to characterize a Native American literary tradition; I'll try to draw attention to these elements as we go.

 COURSE MATERIALS

In any course that privileges an unfamiliar cultural milieu, there's always a temptation to emphasize cultural literacy over literary literacy. This is especially true of this course, because in the traditions of almost every Native American group I know of, fixed texts (like books, movies, oil paintings) have until very recently played little or no part in the preservation, transformation, and transmission of collective or individual identity. Nevertheless, I've tried to design a syllabus that will keep us all grounded in the kinds of fixed texts most of us are used to encountering in English courses: works of prose fiction (novels), poetry, and a lot of "secondary" or "supplementary" works of literary criticism. At the same time, I've tried to select texts that (1) are generally considered to be some of the best work that has emerged in the Native American literary tradition during the past century or so and/or (2) have been written by the best writers contributing to that emerging tradition"best" both by prevailing Anglo standards and by most Native American criteria. If there is any consensus "canon" of Native American literature, much of what you'll be reading in this course is already part of it.

I am also attaching a list of several major (or strongly up-and-coming) Native American poets. Each seminar participant will be presenting on one of these writers, so you'd do well to begin skimming through a good poetry anthology (Hobson's The Remembered Earth or Bruchac's Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back are the current classics in the field) to see who sounds interesting or familiar.

Required texts: Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization
D'Arcy McNickle, The Surrounded
Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn
Leslie Silko, Ceremony
James Welch, The Death of Jim Loney
Louis Owens, The Sharpest Sight
Geary Hobson, The Remembered Earth

Strongly recommended secondary reading: Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop
Leslie Silko, Storyteller
Andrew Wiget, Native American Literature
Kenneth Lincoln, Native American Renaissance
Andrew Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature
Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, eds., Recovering the Word
Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins
Edward H. Spicer, The American Indians
Robert M. Nelson, Place and Vision

Some important contemporary poets:
Sherman Alexie (Coeur d'Alene)
Carroll Arnett/Gogisgi (Cherokee)
Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)
Robert J. Conley (Cherokee)
Joy Harjo (Creek)
Lance Henson (Cheyenne)
Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
Simon Ortiz (Acoma)
Carter Revard (Osage)
Wendy Rose (Hopi-Miwok)
Carol Lee Sanchez (Laguna)
Luci Tapahonso (Navajo)
Ray Youngbear (Mesquaki)

Note: Published collections of interviews with selected Native American authors include Joseph Bruchac, ed., Survival This Way; Brian Swann, ed., I Tell You Now; Laura Coltelli, ed., Winged Words; and William Balassi et al., This Is About Vision.

 TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND PRIVILEGED ISSUES

[Note: you'll notice the syllabus gets sketchier with each projected session. That's because I want to keep the seminar "flexible": I'd like to see it become a project of the evolving concerns of those taking it.]

27 Aug [openers]

3 Sep (a) Pearce, Savagism and Civilization: Constructing "Indianness": types & stereotypes (literary and otherwise) of The Indian, contact-1930s: prevailing concepts of savagism (noble, vicious) and primitivism

(b) Hobson, "The Rise of the White Shaman" (RE 100-08); Silko, "An Old-Time Indian Attack" (RE 211-16): "Whose story is this?"sounding the issues of cultural imperialism, cultural (mis-) appropriation, cultural exploitation, cultural genocide

For a good overview of how evolving stereotypes of Native America have played out historically as (generally genocidal) US history, see Spicer, "Federal Policy toward American Indians," The American Indians 176-203; a more slanted version of Spicer's story is Ward Churchill's Fantasies of the Master Race (fasten your seatbelt!).

10 Sep (a) McNickle, The Surrounded: "Assimilate or die"; the Vanishing American motif)

(b) Sanchez, "Conversations" (RE 240-43, 249-50); Conley, "We Wait" (RE 72-73); Durham, "Columbus Day" (xerox) (towards a strategy of survival: cultural dualism, cultural separatism.

This would be a good time to read Vine Deloria's Custer Died for Your Sins, esp. the opening chapter.

17 Sep Momaday, House Made of Dawn: Ambiguous survival; polyvocality; hozhoojii)

Evers, "Words and Place" in Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature 211-29; Nelson, Place and Vision 41-89. For an intriguing analysis of several Navajo chantways (Blessingway, Beautyway, Mountainway) as they relate to HMOD, see Susan Scarberry-García's Landmarks of Healing.

24 Sep writing oral tradition I: from ethnography to ethnopoetics

(a) "By This Song I Walk" (xerox)

(b) videotapes of live performances: Andrew Natonabah, "By This Song I Walk" (Navajo); Rudolph Kane, "Origins of the Crown Dance" (Apache); Helen Sekaquaptewa, "Iisaw" (Hopi)

Some seminal works in the evolution of ethnopoetics include Hymes, "Introduction" to In Vain I Tried to Tell You; Mattina, "Editing Texts for the Printed Page" (Recovering the Word 129-48); Tedlock, "On the Translation of Style" (Smoothing the Ground 57-78) and "The Spoken Word and the Word of Interpretation" in Kroeber, ed., Traditional Literatures of the American Indians 45-58. Don't miss Karl Kroeber's intro to Kroeber, ed., Traditional Literatures of the American Indians, esp. his thumbnail intro to Alan Dundes' text/texture/context schema.

 1 Oct writing oral tradition II: e.g., Coyote stories

(a) Sekaquaptewa, "Iisaw" (video); Wiget, "Telling the Tale" (Recovering the Word 297-336)

(b) a Coyote sampler: Simon Ortiz, Leslie Silko, Peter Bluecloud (xerox)

For a pan-tribal sampling of Coyote (and other trickster) stories, see Barry Lopez, Giving Birth to Thunder . . . . On the Dark Side of all this, see Barry Toelken, "Life and Death in Navajo Coyote Tales" (Recovering the Word 388-401)

8 Oct writing oral tradition III: some latter-day "traditional" poets and motifs

Tapahonso; sampler from Remembered Earth

15 Oct [ fall break ]

22 Oct Silko, Ceremony

(a) the pretexts; the "body" of Story

(b) the prose narrative

Boas, translated transcriptions from Keresan Texts (xerox); Nelson, Words and Place 11-39

29 Oct poetry

5 Nov Welch, The Death of Jim Loney: What does it take to be a "genuine" or "authentic" Indian?

Nelson, Words and Place 91-131

12 Nov Owens, The Sharpest Sight: Who sez an Injin can't be an English prof?

19 Nov poetry

26 Nov [ Thanksgiving break ]

3 Dec TBA

 


English 573: Tradition and Renewal

Spring 1993

 12 Jan: intros

19 Jan: oral performance and the issue of genre

This week we'll be looking at three videotapes (all filmed in the late 1970s) of "traditional" oral performances: Helen Sekaquaptewa (Hopi) in "Iisaw: Hopi Coyote Stories"; Rudolph Kane (White Mountain Apache) in "The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative"; and Andrew Natonabah (Navajo) in "By This Song I Walk: Navajo Song." Using these performances we'll begin to examine the ways that text, texture, and context tend to determine issues of "genre" in traditional Native American literatures.

reading: Wiget, Native American Literature, Chs and 2 (1-43); Kroeber, Traditional Literatures of the American Indians; Swann and Krupat, Recovering the Word: Wiget, "Telling the Tale: A Performance Analysis . . ." (297- 336); Toelken, "Life and Death in Navajo Coyote Tales" (388-401)

26 Jan: ontology, language, and translation

Conventional wisdom these days has it that our language shapes our worldview and experience as much as vice-versa. During this session we'll consider some of the limitations of that the English language may impose on accurate translation of Native-language literatures and worldviews.

readings: Tedlock and Tedlock, Teachings from the American Earth: Tedlock and Tedlock, "Introduction" (xi-xxiv); Whorf, "An American Indian Model of the Universe" (121-29); Lee, "Linguistic Reflection of Wintu Thought" (130-40); Ortiz, "The Tewa World View" (179-89)

Basso, Western Apache Language and Culture (esp. Ch 6, "Stalking With Stories" and Ch 7, "Speaking With Names"); Allen, The Sacred Hoop: "Something Sacred Going On Out There" (102-17) and "The Ceremonial Motion of Indian Time" (147-54)

 2 Feb

story: pre-story, story-as-text, story-as-context

a) "story" as source of text "By This Song I Walk"

b) ethnopoetics, interlanguages

readings: "translation" of Natonabah's performance (handout); Studies in American Indian Literatures 3.1; Hymes, "Introduction" to In Vain I Tried to Tell You; Mattina, "Editing Texts for the Printed Page" in Recovering the Word (129-48)

9 Feb

the "body of story" concept: varieties of retelling, writing, rewriting (Keresan texts)

Readings: Silko, Storyteller; Boas, "Hummingbird," "Pacayanyi," [kaupata]; Benedict, "Kaupata"; Gunn, Schat-Chen (esp. "Introduction" to "Schat-chen"[7-8], "Introduction" to "Traditions and Narratives of the Queres" [107], "The Tradition of Ship-op" [109-109-12], and "Ko-pot Ka-nat"[115-19]); Nelson, "He Said/She Said"

16 Feb

Ceremony: traditional story as pretext, subtext, backbone text

readings: Silko, Ceremony; Allen, "The Feminine Landscape of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony" (118-26); Lincoln, "Grandmother Storyteller: Leslie Silko" in Native American Renaissance (222-250)

23 Feb

the idea of "authentic" Indian identity in postwar writings

readings (tentative):

a) Welch, The Death of Jim Loney

b) [sampling of poetry wrestling with cultural dualism: Conley, "We Wait"; Sanchez, "Conversations"; Niatum, "On Stereotypes" (in Recovering the Word); Deloria, Custer Died for Your Sins (esp Ch 1, "Indians Today, the Real and Unreal (9-34); Littlefield, "American Indians, American Scholars, and the American Literary Canon"

 2 March

[TBA]

16, 23, 30 March: tradition and renewal in the work of contemporary Indian poets

Presentations should privilege issues of tradition and renewal: author's formal and theoretical advocacy of strategies for preserving/sustaining "traditional" themes, motifs, cultural identity within the context of a "dominant culture" and its own thematic and formal conventions.

some suggested writers for treatment:
Simon Ortiz (Acoma)
Joe Bruchac (Abenaki)
Charlotte DeClue (Osage)
Joy Harjo (Creek)
Adrian Louis (Paiute)
Carter Revard (Ponca/Osage)
Mary Tallmountain (Koyukon)
Lucy Tapahonso (Navaho)
Ray Young Bear (Mesquakie)
SAIL
2.2; SAIL 4.4

6, 13, 20 April: symposium (reports/presentations on individual projects)


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