Contemporary American Indian Fiction
Spring 2004

This course is dedicated to the memories of James Welch, Louis Owens, Lee Francis, and Elaine Jahner

 

English 3344-001 Office Hrs: T-Th 2-3:30; or by apt. 405 CH
Instructor: Dr. Roemer Please schedule all appointments.
T/TH 11-12:20 Phone: 272-2729
Preston 103 roemer@uta.edu

Goals [& Means] 1. to introduce students to selected novels written since 1968 by authors with Native American heritages and to resources for studying these texts [classes/readings/tapes];

2. to discuss aesthetic, theoretical, ethical, cultural,and political issues raised by the texts (e.g., concepts of identity, place, gender and language; implications of integrations of mainstream and non-mainstream cultures and literary conventions including combinations of oral and written literatures) [classes/ readings/exams/paper];

3. to examine in particular canon formation issues (the first three novels), how fiction by Indian authors can redefine representations of American history (second three novels), and recent trends in fiction (Sarris, Alexie, film, and course packet) [classes/exams/paper];

4. to enhance writing skills [reader-response paper & evaluation of an article or chapter on a novel ].

Goals & Assessment
By the end of the semester, students who have successfully completed the in- and out-of-class assignments should (1) know basic biographical and bibliographical information about each of the novelists studied and the novelist selected for the second paper; (2) be able to discuss intelligently (a) significant issues raised in the works studied and (b) the general issues indicated in goals 2 &3 above; (3) be able to articulate explanations for their responses to selected works by Native American authors and to selected critics. Progress toward these goals will be assessed in class discussions (goals 1,2 &3), examinations (goals 1,2 &3), and the paper (goal 4).

Required Readings
Course packet (CP): theoretical & contextual readings and fiction
HOUSE MADE OF DAWN, Momaday
WINTER IN THE BLOOD, Welch
CEREMONY, Silko
FOOLS CROW, Welch
SOLAR STORMS, Hogan
LAST REPORT ON THE MIRACLES AT LITTLE NO HORSE, Erdrich GRAND AVENUE, Sarris
Selection from GRAND AVENUE, Saris; & LONE RANGER Alexie
One other novel for the second paper (see below).

Topics, Readings, Exams, Paper, Tentative Dates

Introductions: The Course; Historical, Cultural, and Institutional Contexts and Controversies; Research Tools

Readings: Handouts; Readings Packet 1/20, 22

First Examination 1/27

Establishing an Audience
: Canon Formation

A (30,000-year) Belated Ground Breaking via Pulitzer

Reading: HOUSE MADE OF DAWN and tape of "Man Made of Words" 1/27,29; 2/3

NEW YORK TIMES Front-Page Recognition

Reading: WINTER IN THE BLOOD (includes taped interview) 2/5,10,12

"The" Canonized "Indian" Novel

Reading: CEREMONY 2/17,19,24

Second Examination 2/26

 

 

Historical Reconstructions

19th-Century Plains Secular and Visionary History

Reading: FOOLS CROW 3/2,4,9,11

First Paper Due 3/11

Spring Break 3/15-21

20th-Century Tight Time Focus Crossing Place Boundaries

Reading: SOLAR STORMS 3/23,25,30

20th-Century Tight Place Focus Crossing Time Boundaries

Reading: LAST REPORT 4/1,6,8,13

Third Examination 4/15

The Diversity of Recent Fiction


Readings: Selections from GRAND AVENUE 4/20,22 Selections from LONE RANGER 4/27,29 SMOKE SIGNALS (film) 5/4

Second Paper Due 5/4

Review for Fourth Examination 5/6

Fourth Examination 5/11

EXAMINATIONS: The first examination will be a short-answer test drawn from the course packet, handouts, and classes. On the first day of class you will receive a study sheet (36 questions). The exam will be 20 of these questions. The other three exams will consist of two parts: short answer questions/identifications drawn from the readings and classes; essay questions relating to the issues discussed in group and class discussions. The class before each exam I will distribute a detailed study sheet. The exams will not be cumulative; each essay exam will examine the material assigned and discussed since the previous exam.

Grading criteria for the essay questions include a demonstrated ability to focus on the questions and to support claims with relevant references to the texts.

FIRST PAPER (due 3/11; approximately four pages; 2000 words). Each student will select one of the assigned novels. The paper will include (1) a brief, general portrait of the student as a reader, (2) descriptions of three important "influences" (transformational associations) that shaped his or her responses to specific parts and/or general motifs or issues in the text, (3) analyses of the effects of each of the influences, and (4) a concluding statement on how this reading/writing experience either reinforced or modified his or her general assumptions about his or her reading processes. Examination of each of the influences should include a definition of the influence, identification of which part or parts of the text were affected, and a discussion of the resulting response. A good way to begin this paper is to take notes as you read. When you arrive at a particularly strong negative or positive response, note down why you think you responded this way. After finishing the book, see if there are any recurrent patterns that can become the bases for the most important transformative associations discussed.

Grading criteria include the demonstrated ability to fulfill the above-stated requirements of the paper and to write competently (this includes mechanical skills in grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., as well the ability to invent and construct coherent sentences, paragraphs, and paper sections.) A free writing lab is available for students who have difficulty writing. I will also examine outlines, rough drafts, etc. as long as they are presented at least one week before the paper due date. Under normal circumstances, no late papers will be accepted.

SECOND PAPER (due 5/4; approximately five pages; 2500 words). Select and read one of the following novels: Paula Gunn Allen's THE WOMAN WHO OWNED THE SHADOWS (1983); Michael Dorris's A YELLOW RAFT IN BLUE WATERS (1990); LeAnne Howe's SHELL SHAKER (2001); Thomas King's MEDICINE RIVER; Gerald Vizenor's BEARHEART (1978;1990). The paper/report will have three sections: (1) a brief overview of the author's accomplishments drawn from NATIVE AMERICAN WRITERS OF THE UNITED STATES, Ed., Roemer (one page); (2) a brief overview of the main issues / themes / questions raised in the book (one page); (3) a critical evaluation of one article or chapter written about the book. (Note: if you select SHELL SHAKER, contact me about biographical and critical sources.)

Grading criteria: the ability to fulfill the above-stated requirements; the ability to write competently (see above under grading criteria for the first paper); and the ability to evaluate the article / article convincingly, using relevant examples from the novel to support your arguments.

Resources for the Study of Contemporary American Indian Fiction

There are valuable and readily available resources at UTA, especially in the MultiCultural Collection on the second floor of the Central Library.
REFERENCE RESOURCES include: A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff's American Indian Literatures; Kenneth Roemer's Native American Writers of the United States (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 175); Andrew Wiget's Handbook of Native American Literature, Louis Owens & Tom Collonnese's American Indian Novelists; Kay Juricek and Kelly Morgan's Contemporary Native American Authors; Janet Witalec's Native North American Literature ; Andrew Wiget's Native American Literature. CRITICAL SOURCES include Charles Larson's American Indian Fiction (out of date), Kenneth Lincoln's Native American Renaissance, Paula Gunn Allen's Sacred Hoop, Arnold Krupat's Voice in the Margin, Louis Owens' Other Destinies and Mixedblood Messages, Richard Fleck's Critical Perspectives on Native American Fiction, James Ruppert's Mediation in Contemporary Native American Fiction, Catherine Rainwater, Dreams of Fiery Stars, Eric Gary Anderson, American Indian Literature and the Southwest, Sid Larsen, Captive in the Middle, Susan Berry Brill de Ramirez, Contemporary American Indian Literatures and the Oral Tradition, Joni Adamson's American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice and Ecocriticism, Craig Womack's Red on Red, Jace Weaver's That the People Might Live; Chadwick Allen's Blood Narrative; and Robert Dale Parker's The Invention of Native American Literature. Important JOURNALS include: SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures), which has its own excellent Web site (<www.richmond.edu/~rnelson/SAILns/>), American Indian Culture and Research Journal (AICRJ), American Indian Quarterly (AIQ), and Wicazo Sa Review. Some excellent articles have also appeared in less specialized journals such as Critical Inquiry, College English, American Literary History, American Quarterly, modern fiction studies, and American Literature. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL GUIDES to articles and books on specific authors can be found in recent issues of American Literary Scholarship, the PMLA Bibliographies, SAIL, AICRJ . The First Search internet resource available in the Library can also be helpful. Many WEB SITES can provide information on Native writers in general and on specific authors. Besides the SAIL site mentioned above , two of the best general sites are <www.anpa.ualr.edu> , the American Native Press Archives. and <www.wordcraftcircle.org>, the site for Wordcraft Circle of native Writers and Storytellers. Examples of the hundreds of individual author Web sites include <http://nativeauthor.com>, http://www.ipl.org/ref/native/>, <www.english.uiuc.edu/maps> (Momaday homepage), and <http://users.mwci. net/~lapoz/ MBio.html> . The NativeLit-L e-mail list address is: <idoy@crux2.cit.cornell.edu>. There is a general "American Indian Resources" Web site: <http://jupiter.lang.osaka-u.ac.jp/~krkvis/naindex.html>. The Fall 1998 issue of Wicazo Sa (13.2) offers an overview of internet resources in Native American studies. The Association for the Study of American Indian Literature (ASAIL) has a listserv for members. For membership information see the SAIL web site.

GRADING WEIGHTS; Approximate weights of assignments: exams: first (10%), second (15%), third (20%), fourth (15%); papers" first (15%), second (25%).

WARNINGS: Professors are no longer allowed to drop students for excessive absences. If you plan to withdraw from the course, you must follow University procedures. If you do not, you will receive an F for the semester. Excessive unexcused absences (more than five classes) will affect your grade (half grade for each set of five absences), since the group discussions / presentations are a significant part of the class time.

In the past I have had few problems with plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. An excellent definition of plagiarism is included in the new (6th Ed.) MLA Handbook (Chapter 2). Instances of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will be turned over immediately to the office of the Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs.

ENCOURAGEMENT; Intangible grading factors: improvement and consistent class participation (especially in the group discussions and presentations) have turned many a C+ into a B- and quite a few B+s into A-s. I am very willing to accommodate disabled students. Early in the semester, they should present their authorized documents from appropriate University offices. Students needing academic or personal counseling should consult the English Graduate Advisor and if necessary the Office of Student Success Programs (817-272-6107)

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