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EGL 2050 - Early American Literature: Native American Origin Stories
North American Indigenous literature began over thirty thousand years ago when Indigenous people began telling stories of emergence and creation, journey and quest, and heroism and trickery. By setting Indigenous literature in historical moments, Sean Teuton skillfully traces its evolutionfrom the ancient role of bringing rain and healing the body, to its later purpose in resisting European invasion and colonization, into its current place as a world literature that confronts dominance while celebrating the imagination and resilience of Indigenous lives.By the time Europeans arrived in North America Indigenous people already understood the power of written language and the need to transmit philosophy, history, and literature across generations and peoples. Seeking out multiple literary forms such as sermon, poetry, and novel to serve differingworldviews Indigenous authors have shaped their writing into North American Indigenous literature as we recognize it today.
Invisible, marginal, expected - these words trace the path of recognition for American Indian literature written in English since the late eighteenth century. This Companion chronicles and celebrates that trajectory by defining relevant institutional, historical, cultural, and gender contexts, by outlining the variety of genres written since the 1770s, and also by focusing on significant authors who established a place for Native literature in literary canons in the 1970s (Momaday, Silko, Welch, Ortiz, Vizenor), achieved international recognition in the 1980s (Erdrich), and performance-celebrity status in the 1990s (Harjo and Alexie). In addition to the seventeen chapters written by respected experts - Native and non-Native; American, British and European scholars - the Companion includes bio-bibliographies of forty authors, maps, suggestions for further reading, and a timeline which details major works of Native American literature and mainstream American literature, as well as significant social, cultural and historical events. An essential overview of this powerful literature.
In the early years of the republic, the United States government negotiated with Indian nations because it could not afford protracted wars politically, militarily, or economically. Maureen Konkle argues that by depending on treaties, which rest on the equal standing of all signatories, Europeans in North America institutionalized a paradox: the very documents through which they sought to dispossess Native peoples in fact conceded Native autonomy. As the United States used coerced treaties to remove Native peoples from their lands, a group of Cherokee, Pequot, Ojibwe, Tuscarora, and Seneca writers spoke out. With history, polemic, and personal narrative these writers countered widespread misrepresentations about Native peoples' supposedly primitive nature, their inherent inability to form governments, and their impending disappearance. Furthermore, they contended that arguments about racial difference merely justified oppression and dispossession; deriding these arguments as willful attempts to evade the true meanings and implications of the treaties, the writers insisted on recognition of Native peoples' political autonomy and human equality. Konkle demonstrates that these struggles over the meaning of U.S.-Native treaties in the early nineteenth century led to the emergence of the first substantial body of Native writing in English and, as she shows, the effects of the struggle over the political status of Native peoples remain embedded in contemporary scholarship.