Print Version

Effective: Fall 2011

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Honors Institute participant.
Advisory: Advisory: Not open to students with credit in ENGL 7.
Grade Type: Letter Grade, the student may select Pass/No Pass
Not Repeatable.
FHGE: United States Cultures & Communities, Humanities Transferable: CSU/UC
4 hours lecture. (48 hours total per quarter)

Student Learning Outcomes -
  • Interpret Native American literary works within the structure of relevant religious, historical, political, and cultural contexts through the application of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  • Recognize and apply literary terminologies and critical theories appropriate to an introductory college-level discussion of Native American literature, based on original research.
Description -
Introduction to the history, development, and diversity of Native American literatures from pre-contact civilizations to present-day tribal cultures. Readings in traditional creation myths, songs, and stories from a variety of tribal cultures; nineteenth and twentieth century autobiographical narratives; and significant works of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction prose by contemporary Native American authors. Emphasis on the specific religious, linguistic, historical, political and cultural context of Native American literary achievements. Honors work challenges students to be more analytical through expanded assignments including, but not limited to, research-driven literature reviews, research essays, and outside enrichment opportunities. The honors course offers motivated students an enriching and rigorous environment by means of a learner-centered pedagogy, student-generated discussions, self-directed yet supervised projects, and the emphasis and application of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Course Objectives -
The student will be able to:
  1. Identify significant literary, social, historical, cultural, and religious issues in the development of pre-contact Native American literatures.
  2. differentiate between major tribal cultures, groups, practices and traditions in the analysis of post-contact autobiographical narratives, stories, songs and other genres.
  3. Analyze the history of American governmental policies and practices designed to eliminate, oppress, or control Native American peoples.
  4. Distinguish between the differing characteristics and contributions of oral and written traditions and their influence upon contemporary Native American literary productions.
  5. Compare fundamental elements of Native American writing to traditional Anglo-American and European literary genres.
  6. Discuss issues of gender, race, class, sexual preference, and religion and their impact on Native American communities and literatures.
  7. Recognize and apply literary terminologies, critical theories, categories, motifs, and genres appropriate to a college-level discussion of literature.
  8. Situate a text within a specific historical movement and critical period.
Special Facilities and/or Equipment -

Course Content (Body of knowledge) -
  1. Pre-contact indigenous American civilizations and literary productions
    1. Major tribal groups and linguistic regions
    2. Creation myths and religious beliefs
    3. Traditional songs and stories
  2. Post-contact autobiographical narratives
    1. Early accounts of first contact with European civilizations
    2. Nineteenth century autobiographical narratives
    3. Nineteenth century songs and stories
    4. Impact of pan-Indian ghost dance religion and rebellion
  3. History of American governmental policies toward Native American peoples
    1. Contributions of indigenous civilizations to the character and survival of European colonial enterprises
    2. Origin and development of Euro-American stereotypes about Native peoples
    3. Oppressive and genocidal policies of the American government toward Native Americans in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries
  4. Oral versus Written traditions in Native American literatures
    1. Characteristics of oral literatures
    2. Characteristics of written literatures
    3. Continuing influence of oral and written literatures in contemporary Native American literatures.
  5. Recent and contemporary literary works by Native American authors
    1. Novels and short-stories
    2. Poetry
    3. Non-fiction essays and autobiographies
    4. Significance and influence of Native American literatures on contemporary American, European, and World literatures
  6. Issues of identity and diversity in Native American communities as expressed in literary productions
    1. Connections to traditional tribal lands, traditions, and sovereignty
    2. Issues of mixed-heritages: color consciousness and categorization
    3. Role of gender in Native American communities and literatures
    4. Representations of sexuality and sexual preference in Native American literatures
    5. Economic and class issues within Native American communities and literatures
  7. Relevant literary theories, terminologies, and analytic techniques
    1. Denotative and connotative meaning of words and statements
    2. Structure or development of events, emotions, images, and ideas
    3. Figurative and symbolic language in relation to central theme(s) of the work
    4. Artistic synthesis of literal and figurative details with theme(s)
    5. Historical evolution of genres and styles in appropriate literary, cultural and historical context
Methods of Evaluation -
  1. Critical Papers, emphasizing analytic, synthetic, and evaluative thinking. Includes one research paper that applies a critical theory to a primary text and analyzes the text in light of the selected theory.
  2. Presentations and Reports, including one research-driven literature review and in-class group presentations that emphasize the biographical, historical, and/or religious context of a text or author.
  3. Journals.
  4. Midterm examination.
  5. Final examination.
  6. Class discussion in large-group and small-group format.
  7. A portfolio that contains all written work produced for the class, including a final reflective essay.
Representative Text(s) -
When choosing texts for this course, the instructor may wish to choose from a range of genres: literary criticism, poetry, novels, autobiography, short story, drama. At least one text on critical theory is suggested. The following are examples of texts which may be appropriate to this course:
Krupat, Arnold and Brian Swann, ed. Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. New York: Modern Library, 2000.
Purdy, John L. and James Ruppert. Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.
Trout, Lawana. Native American Literature: An Anthology. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1999.
Critical Theory:
Krupat, Arnold. Ethnocriticism: Ethnography, History, Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
The Voice in the Margin: Native American Literature and the Cano. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
Pulitano, Elvira. Toward a Native American Critical Theory. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
Warrior, Robert Allen. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
Wong, Hertha Dawn. Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Selected individual texts such as:
Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven or Reservation Blues.
Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine or Tracks.
Hale, Janet Campbell. Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter.
McNickle, D??Arcy. The Surrounded or Wind from an Enemy Sky.
Momaday, N. Scott. The Way to Rainy Mountain.
Ortiz, Simon. From Sand Creek.
Sarris, Greg. Grand Avenue or Watermelon Nights.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony or Almanac of the Dead.
Standing Bear, Luther. My People, The Sioux.
Tapahanso, Luci. Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories.
Welch, James. Winter in the Blood.
Winnemucca, Sarah. Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims.
Zitkala-Sa. American Indian Stories.

Disciplines -
Method of Instruction -
  1. Lecture presentations and classroom discussion using the language of literary criticism and analysis.
  2. Reading of a wide range of Native American literature, including selections from the oral tradition, nineteenth-century autobiographies, and contemporary poetry and fiction, focusing on historical and cultural contexts.
  3. Group presentations on Native American authors and their works.
Lab Content -
Not applicable.
Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing and Outside of Class Assignments -
  1. Reading assignments include selections from Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature (ed. Purdy and Ruppert) and supplementary readings in a course reader. Authors studied include Zitkala-Sa, Luther Standing Bear, D'Arcy McNickle, Simon J. Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Thomas King, and Sherman Alexie. In the Honors course students also read critical theory, such as Arnold Krupat's Ethnocriticism, Robert Allen's American Indian Literary Nationalism, and Elvira Pulitano's Toward a Native American Critical Theory.
  2. Writing assignments also include out-of-class essays focusing on how a text reflects significant concerns in the field of Native American literature, including colonialism; the myth of the vanishing Indian; authenticity; and hybridity. In the Honors course, students conduct outside research and incorporate literary criticism and theory into their essays. Daily journal entries focusing on the analysis of key quotes in the readings are required.