ENG 361: Native American Novel

Day/Time – TBA
Location – TBA
Instructor – Kirby Brown, kbrown@uoregon.edu

Course Description

Cherokee/Choctaw scholar Louis Owens declared that all Native novels are centrally occupied with recovering and (re)articulating an Indigenous identity from within the discursive and linguistic contexts of colonialism. For Owens, this inherently dialogic process draws heavily on elements of the oral tradition and finds its most powerful articulation in the mixed-blood protagonist. Often depicted as a mongrel degradation of both Indian and non-Indian peoples, Owens argues that the mixedblood becomes in the work of Native writers a figure of possibility and transformation whose return home signals not a loss of authenticity but an attempt by Native writers to write themselves into “other destinies and other plots.”

Though important for its attention to the intersections between Native, narrative, and postcolonial studies, some criticize Owens’ work for unnecessarily privileging the mixedblood experience and foregrounding mediation and negotiation with the colonial center at the expense of local and diasporic Indigenous experiences and histories. Still others question the practical efficacy of postcolonial theory (i.e. after colonialism) to address the politics of Native writing. Informed by the questions organizing this debate, this reading-intensive course examines the Native novel/novella from its emergence to the present day, paying particular attention to the ways in which critical methodologies define and delimit understandings of the politics of Native writing.

Learning Outcomes

  • Read literary texts with discernment and comprehension and with an understanding of structural, generic, and other conventions.
  • Situate literary texts and writers within their appropriate historical and tribal/cultural contexts, and gain a more complicated understanding of and appreciation for the diversity and complexity of Native American intellectual and cultural production.
  • Develop a historically-nuanced grasp of some of the major issues, questions, and concerns that run throughout Native American literatures, specifically the relationship between cultural production, federal policies, and contemporary movements toward Native sovereignty and self-determination.
  • Develop capacities to engage in thoughtful, critical presentation and debate around questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, citizenship, and belonging.
  • Consistently work to hone close, critical reading skills applicable to a variety of textual forms and intellectual/professional contexts.
  • Write focused, analytical essays in clear, grammatical prose, drawing upon primary and secondary sources, with proper acknowledgement and attribution.

Required Texts

John Joseph Mathews (Osage), Sundown (1934)

  1. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), The Way to Rainy Mountain (1967)

Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), Ceremony (1976)

D’Arcy McNickle (Salish & Kootenai), Wind from an Enemy Sky (1978)

Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), Solar Storms (1995)

LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), The Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (2007)

Other readings available on Canvas