Trickster Tales: An Introduction to American Indian Literatures
This course follows the escapades of the trickster figure in stories, novels, and poetry by American Indian authors. As the trickster slips in and out of his many identities -- trouble-maker, messenger, creator, lover, destroyer, clown -- we will study his multifaceted role in Indian narratives as an introduction to the heterogeneity of Indian writing itself. We will also consider how the tricksters in American Indian literature texture this body of writing with ironies, puzzles, and a distinct unruliness that carry important political and philosophical implications. The course will begin with nineteenth-century authors such as William Apess and Zitkala-Ša, and then focus on contemporary authors, tracing the trickster's mischief in works by Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, Thomas King, Louise Erdrich, and others. Students will also examine current debates about authority, identity, and politics in American Indian writing. Course requirements include weekly reading responses and a final paper.