Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 20 Hours. Seminar. (10 x 2 hr seminar workshops)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 essays (2,500 words each)  Continuous Assessment:  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:

1. demonstrate an understanding of Native American literature and of the critical debates pertaining to it;

2. write about the subject in a well-structured and well argued manner;

3. have added to their knowledge of the corpus of American literature;

4. have developed their powers of critical analysis.


This module aims:

1. to investigate the histories and cultures of North American Indians, paying particular attention to how differences between Indian and non-Indian world views, themes, genres, and techniques are articulated in American Indian literature;

2. to examine the great diversity of Native American oral and written storytelling. To this end we will read creation myths, traditional oral narratives and songs, collaborative autobiographies, and poetry and fiction;

3. to understand the unique place of Native Americans in U.S. society as indigenous peoples and as an ethnic and cultural minority in a polyglot nation.

Brief description

In her poem 'Anchorage', Creek poet Joy Harjo speaks of 'the fantastic and terrible story of all our survival', while in 'The Significance of a Veteran's Day', Acoma poet Simon Ortiz has written: 'I am talking about how we have been able/ to survive insignificance'. Harjo and Ortiz are two among a growing number of contemporary Native American writers who have used autobiography, poetry and fiction to investigate what it means to be 'Indian' in the late twentieth-century United States. Through the semester we shall consider how both contemporary and historical Native American writers have dramatised cultural survival and questions of individual and tribal identity through a variety of literary forms.

We begin the course by examining the complex and dynamic relationships between Native Americans and the natural world as they are expressed through oral narratives, songs, chants, and ceremonies. We proceed by exploring a variety of textual forms through which American Indian voices were represented from the late eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century. These forms include oratory, sermons, life histories, poetry, collaborative autobiography, and novels.

In the latter half of the course we will critique literature by a variety of contemporary authors and poets.



_Seminar 1: Introduction

_Seminars 2 & 3: Oral Literatures
  • Required reading: 'Introduction', 'Tales', 'Songs' and 'Oratory' sections from Velie (3-151). Pay particular attention to 'The Origin Myth of Acoma', 'The Winnebago Trickster Cycle', and 'Walam Olum'.
_Seminar 4: Autobiography
  • Required reading: Black Elk and John G. Neihardt (ed.), Black Elk Speaks (1933)
_Seminar 5: The Early Twentieth Century in Recent Native American Fiction
  • Required reading: Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)
_Seminar 6: 'Native American Renaissance'
  • Required reading: N Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1986)
_Seminar 7: Storytelling
  • Required reading: Leslie Marmon Silko, Storyteller (1981)
_Seminar 8: Critical voices of North American Literature
  • Required viewing: Imagining Indians (Dir. Victor Masayesva Jr, 1996)
  • Required reading: Selection of online essays
_Seminar 9: Contemporary Native American Literature and Film
  • Required reading: Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993)
  • Required viewing: Smoke Signals (dir. Chris Eyre, 1998)
_Seminar 10: Poetry
  • Required reading: Poetry selections from Velie

Reading List

Should Be Purchased
Alan R. Velie (ed.) (1991) American Indian Literature: An Anthology Revised Edition: University of Oklahoma Press Primo search Black Elk (ed.John G. Neihardt) (2003) Black Elk Speaks University of Nebraska Press Primo search Leslie Marmon Silko (1989) Storyteller Arcade Publishing Primo search Louise Erdrich (1994) Tracks Flamingo Primo search N. Scott Momaday (1999) House Made of Dawn HarperCollins Primo search Sherman Alexie (1997) The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Minerva Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6