ENG361 202101 Undergraduate

Term: 
Fall 2021
Course: 
ENG 361
Applies To: 
Undergraduate
Sections: 
Title: 
Native American Writers
Instructors: 

Kirby Brown

Kirby Brown profile picture
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Additional Title: Norman H. Brown Faculty Fellow, 2019-21; Director, Native American Studies
  • Phone: 541-346-5819
  • Office: 330 PLC
  • Office Hours: Spring 2021: T: 12-1pm, W: 10am-12pm, and by email appointment
  • Website: Website
Department Section Description: 

Native American Writers (Contemporary Indigenous Women Writers): La Malinche. Pocahontas. Sacagawea. These are likely the only Indigenous women with whom many are familiar. Though real historical figures, these Indigenous women are often depicted in popular literature along a rigid spectrum as race traitors or colonial sympathizers, virtuous princesses or lascivious squaws. As Mohawk writer, performer, poet, and critic Pauline Johnson noted over 130 years ago, such framings erase the enormous cultural specificity and political diversity of tribal experience. Positioned in romanticized narratives, representations such as these also work to sanitize histories of settler colonial conflict, dispossession, and violence that continue to impact contemporary tribal peoples, often with profound impacts on Indigenous women. Johnson’s late-19th century demand for more complex depictions of Indigenous women isn’t simply an issue of cultural (mis)representation, but also of the effects such representations exert on the lived experiences of Indigenous women. Thus, for Indigenous women like Harjo, to write, speak, or represent oneself as an Indigenous woman is not merely an exercise in self-help. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

Taking Pauline Johnson as a literary ancestor to Harjo and the contemporary writers we’ll read this term, this course explores what happens, to paraphrase Laguna writer Paula Gunn Allen, when Indigenous women speak and write for themselves. Much to the dismay of settler colonial discourse, Indigenous women have not gone quietly into that good night of romanticism, erasure, and absence. On the contrary, they have actively and aggressively engaged in acts of subversion, resistance, refusal, recovery, and resurgence by asserting (and inserting) their voices, self-images, and narratives into the broader discourses that would silence them. To appreciate the role Indigenous women have played, and continue to play, in decolonization, cultural survivance, and efforts to protect, strengthen, and expand Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, we’ll necessarily situate our work where questions of genre and literary form intersect those of gender, sexuality, race, class, settler colonialism, and indigeneity.

Fulfills: 

IP

Multicultural, Identity, Pluralism, and Tolerance (IP) courses examine the social construction of collective identities, the emergence of representative voices from varying social and cultural standpoints, and the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination. The purpose of courses in this category is to analyze the general principles underlying tolerance, or the lack of it.

US

US: Difference, Inequality, and Agency courses focus on race and ethnicity in the United States by considering two or more racial and ethnic groups.

C-Literature 1789-Present

Literature, 1789 to the present courses focus on literary work produced over more than two centuries -- from the period of British romanticism and the early republic of the United States up to now -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history.  Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them.

G-Empire/Race/Ethnicity

Empire, Race, and/or Ethnicity courses focus on ways that race matters in literature, media, and culture.  Recent courses have examined such matters as native American literature and film; nineteenth-century writings by slavers and enslaved people in the U.S. and British colonies; fiction and filmmaking in post-apartheid South Africa; Latinx science fiction and environmental justice, and the novels of Toni Morrison.

English Minor

English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts.  The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.