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Native / American Literature

ENGL 082.001
TR 1:30-3

This course will pair canonical works of American literature with writings by Native American storytellers in order to study the very different epistemologies or systems of knowledge employed by each group.  Canonical writers will include John Winthrop, J. Hector St. John de Crèvcoeur, and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.  Each of these literary works intersects in complicated and often surprising ways with Native American culture.  Rather than just studying the problem from the perspective of the dominant society, the Native American stories will be treated with same serious attention usually reserved for the  “masterpieces” of the Euro-American tradition.  In doing so, intriguing questions arise such as: why didn’t the Puritans see Indians as “Americans”?  How would “American literary history” be changed if the history of the field began with rock art from 1000 BCE instead of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock?  Why does this massive cultural misunderstanding continue into the 21st century?  Finally, we will study literary works by contemporary Native American writers who see American literary history extending back well before European colonization and use these stories to imagine a new conception of American literary history which respectfully includes the much deeper cultural memory of the indigenous inhabitants of the continent.  Students will be asked to write 3 five page papers or creative projects.

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