English 372-001
Spring 2015
T 11:00-1:40
Curtin 118
Prof. Kimberly Blaeser
Office: Curtin 572
Dept. #229-4511
Survey of American Indian Literature:
Native American Story from Pictograph to Hypertext
Course Description:
This class will explore the storytelling aesthetic that informs much of Native Literature and even informs
Native critical theory. The primary materials for this course will include many “containers” of story not
generally understood as “text.” We begin, for example, with images of Native pictographs and the
interpretive materials that will help us as reader/viewers “translate” the storied art works. Our study
will also include samples of early and contemporary oral storytelling, some presented in a multidimensional performance. We will investigate both sacred and secular Native stories, work to
understand the relationships between them, and analyze their different cultural purposes. The class will
consider the special storytelling layers accessible in Native ledger art, both ledger art from the 19th
century and that of the more recent revival of the form. We will, of course, look at more traditional
samples of American Indian stories—fiction, life stories, narrative poetry, creative non-fiction, and
narrative history. Finally, we will view and discuss examples of the supposedly new story methods such
as film, interactive art, Native hip-hop, and video poems. As we do so, we will trace and compare their
storytelling traditions with those we have already encountered. Critical texts, too, will include work
drawn from scholars like Gerald Vizenor, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, and Gordon Henry who
understand story as a key aesthetic component of Native theory.
Required Texts: Books for this course are available at Woodland Pattern Book Center, a non-profit
literary center located at 720 E. Locust St., Milwaukee (#263-5001, Hrs. T-F 12-8, S & S 12-5). Required
texts include:
Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature, eds. John Purdy & James Ruppert
The Round House, Louise Erdrich
Storyteller, Leslie Silko.
The Way to Rainy Mountain, N. Scott Momaday
Additional work will be available in a Course Reader, on D2-L, and as handouts in class.