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ENGL 541 A: Contemporary Literature

Introduction to Graduate Study in American Indian and Indigenous Literatures

Meeting Time: 
T 3:30pm - 7:20pm
* *
Chadwick Allen
Chadwick Allen

Syllabus Description:

Introduction to Graduate Study in American Indian and Indigenous Literatures

This seminar offers an introduction to graduate-level study in contemporary American Indian and Indigenous literatures. Rather than take a conventional literary-historical approach (i.e., following the chronology of publication of what are considered major primary texts) or take a conventional literary-critical approach (i.e., tracking the development of what are considered major approaches to scholarship in the field), we will take a genre-based approach during our ten weeks together. Each week we will center an example from a significant genre of contemporary American Indian and Indigenous literary self-representation—works designated as nonfiction, memoir, short- and long-form poetry, the novel, and short digital film—accompanied by relevant secondary materials, including reviews, interviews, and formal scholarship. Moreover, we will focus on a group of primary texts published since 2000 (with a couple notable exceptions, such as N. Scott Momaday’s seminal essay “The Man Made of Words” from 1970 and Joy Harjo’s classic collection of poetry She Had Some Horses from the 1980s).

Because this is an introduction to the field, we will prioritize discussion of our primary texts, supported by article- and chapter-length secondary readings, as well as regular close reading and response, which will help us focus on details within and across specific works.  Students who have prior experience with the field, however, will have the option to develop a more formal conference-length essay as a final project. Issues raised by these American Indian and Indigenous works should be of interest to a wide range of students working across areas marked as American Indian, Indigenous, US ethnic, and/or world literatures.
Course Structure
English 541 is scheduled to meet for a four-hour block once a week: Tuesdays between 3:30 and 7:20 p.m. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we will meet remotely, using the Zoom platform. Since we only have ten opportunities to meet as a group (with an optional eleventh meeting during Finals Week), it will be essential for everyone to attend every class meeting that they possibly can. Our weekly meetings will be structured in three parts, with a first meeting of two hours, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., followed by a 50 minute break, 5:30 – 6:20 p.m., followed by a second meeting of one hour, 6:20 – 7:20 p.m.
Required Texts
Joy Harjo, She Had Some Horses (Norton; other editions also fine)
Allison Hedge Coke, Blood Run: Free Verse Play (Salt Publishing)
LeAnne Howe, Shell Shaker (Aunt Lute Books)
Layli Long Soldier, Whereas: Poems (Graywolf Press)
Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (University of Minnesota Press)
Deborah Miranda, Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Heyday)
Tommy Orange, There There (Vintage)
Tommy Pico, Nature Poem (TinHouse Books)

Short texts are available on the course Canvas site, under the “Files” tab.

Full English 541 syllabus also can be found on the "Files" tab.

Last updated: 
October 26, 2020 - 9:44am