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Native American Writing Before 1968

ENGL 286.301
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

The publication of N. Scott Momaday's The House Made of Dawn in 1968 is often characterized as the beginning of a Native American literary "renaissance" - an explosion in native writing which coincided with growing national awareness of Native American politics due to actions like the occupation of Alcatraz Island and the cross-country march known as the Trail of Broken Treaties. However, this increase in native visibility can obscure the numerous indigenous writings produced in the century-and-a-half prior. This course will examine Native American texts from the early-nineteenth-century to the mid-twentieth-century, focusing on how such writings articulate indigenous identities and interests in the context of U.S. imperial expansion. In particular, we will be concerned with the following: how specific texts seek to intervene in contemporaneous political struggles; the effects of generic form on the content of such interventions; and the interpretive questions raised by the issue of relative literacy in English. Overall, then, this class will give students a background in the rich and extensive collection of Native American writings in English that preceded the supposed watershed year of 1968. Authors may include William Apess, Elias Boudinot, Jane Schoolcraft, Sarah Winnemucca, Zitkala-Sa, John Rollin Ridge, Black Hawk, E. Pauline Johnson, Mourning Dove, Ella Deloria, Charles Eastman, and John Joseph Mathews, and Nancy Ward.