Module Identifier EN34420  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr Martin Padget  
Semester Available semesters 1 and 2  
Other staff Mrs Carol Marshall  
Course delivery Seminar   20 Hours (10 x 2 hr seminar workshops)  
Assessment Continuous assessment   2 essays (2,500 words each)   100%  
  Resit assessment   Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements.    

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. Literature by both 'mixedbloods' and 'fullbloods' is represented. 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.


1: Introduction to Native American Literatures
Introduction and overview.   
View: Selected art and photography of Native Americans; Victor Masayesva, Jr, Itam Hakim Hopiit

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'

4: 'The End of Our Merrymaking': An Indian View of Westward Expansion
Required reading: Sarah Winnemucca, Life among the Piutes (1883)

5: Autobiography I
Required reading: Geronimo and S. M. Barrett, Geronimo: His Own Story (1906)

6: Autobiography II
Required reading: Black Elk and John G. Neihardt (ed.), Black Elk Speaks (1933)

7: The Early Twentieth Century in Recent Native American Fiction
Required reading: Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)

8: 'Native American Renaissance'
Required reading: N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1968)

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)

10: Poetry
Required reading: Poetry selections from Velie

Set Texts (in order of reading):

Alan R. Velie, ed., American Indian Literature: An Anthology (revised edition, 1991)
Sarah Winnemucca, Life among the Piutes (1883)
Charles Eastman, From the Deep Woods to Civilization (1916)
Black Elk and John G. Neihardt, ed., Black Elk Speaks (1932)
N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1968)
Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993)

Aims and objectives

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;
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;
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.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
discuss the subject coherently;
write about the subject in a well-structured and well argued manner;
have added to their knowledge of the corpus of American literature;
have developed their powers of critical analysis.