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Native American Religion and Literature

ENGL 282.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

"Native American Religion and Literature" will explore the spiritual dimensions of three tribes-- Ojibwe, Cherokee, and Sioux-- using an interdisciplinary focus that includes literature, religious studies, film, and anthropology.  We will focus on masterful stories in which Cherokee people turn into bears, thunderbirds talk, and invisible forces are made visible.  Rather than seeing these stories as "myths," they will be treated as highly sophisticated forms of philosophy.  Students will participate in a research project to create a digital exhibit of Cherokee artifacts from the Penn Museum and the American Philosophical Society that will be displayed in the Junaluska Museum on the reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.

The class will include two 7-8 page analytic essays and one shorter, more descriptive paper.

This course will provide and introduction to Native American literature in all of its many forms: oral tradition, material culture, sacred sites, stories, poems, short stories, novels, and films.  The class will visit the Penn Museum, where objects not normally on display will be brought out.  The stories we read will highlight the humor and depth of Native American literature, where magical thinking-- a drum that comes to life to save a young girl-- are considered to be natural and real.

There will be three five page papers and class participation will be an important part of the final grade.  Students may choose to write creative essays that engage in magical thinking or to write traditional analytical essaysl