LITR 5731 Seminar in American Multicultural Literature
Minority Literature

Lecture Notes

begin Love Medicine


obituary for Russell Means, American Indian Movement (AIM) activist & film actor

Russell Means, left, as Chingachgook in Last of the Mohicans 1992


LITR 5434

Reading Race in Early Modern England

Spring 2013

Tuesdays 4-6:50 PM

Dr. Elizabeth Klett

Description: Janissary.jpg Description: Turkish_woman.jpg

In this class, we will explore the ways in which race is constructed in early modern English texts.  Our reading list will likely include: The Masque of Blackness by Ben Jonson, The Merchant of Venice and Othello by William Shakespeare, The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, Selimus, Emperor of the Turks by Robert Greene, A Christian Turn’d Turk by Robert Daborne, The Renegado by Philip Massinger, Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave by Aphra Behn, and selections from travel narratives.  All of these writings deal with key questions that we will explore throughout the semester:

  • How did early modern writers think about the concept of “race”? 
  • How did the English envision and construct people of different races and religions, such as Jews, Turks, Moors, etc.?
  • How do the texts represent the encounters between Europeans and these “Others”?
  • How do these authors construct England and “Englishness” with respect to the “Other”?



Contact Dr. Klett at for more information.


Pictured: “The janissary going to the wars” and “A gentlewoman of the Turks,” from Nicolas de Nicolay, The Navigations, Peregrinations and Voyages Made into Turkey (1585).


The University of Houston Graduate English Society is hosting our 3rd annual Graduate Student Conference.  We want to develop this into an annual event to promote academic discussion and a sense of community between graduate students in the coastal plains region.  This is a wonderful opportunity for your graduate students to participate in a professional, regional, low cost conference and to build those relationships that are so important for all scholars.  The conference web address is

Please help us promote this event by distributing the Call for Papers to your faculty and graduate student list serve.



Lone Star College–CyFair invites you to attend its Adjunct Faculty Hiring Fair on November 10, 2012.


Saturday, November 10, 2012


9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.


College Center/Conference Center

Campus Address:

9191 Barker Cypress Rd., Cypress, TX  77433


Important Parking Information: To avoid parking tickets, please park in the North Parking Lot in front of the College Center (Building 5).  LSC-CyFair campus map.  There will be signage to direct you.


Due to an unprecedented enrollment growth over the past year, Lone Star College-CyFair has a wide variety of adjunct instructor positions available for Spring 2013.  Please go to to read more and apply for the current positions.  Instructions on how to apply are attached.

Please bring a current résumé/c.v., copies of your college transcripts, and any relevant licenses or certifications for the Department Chairs to review. Recruiters will be there to answer general questions about the employment process. 

Disciplines Not Needed At This Time:

Business Administration


Fire Science

Department Chairs will be present to speak with applicants in the following academic disciplines:

Art Appreciation (#6130)

(Master’s degree in Art or M.F.A specific to the discipline from an accredited college) 

Drama (#5806)

(Master’s of Art or Master’s of Fine Art degree in Drama or Theatre, or a Master’s degree with 18 graduate hours in Drama)

English (#5814)

(Master’s degree in English or a Master’s with 18 graduate hours in English from an accredited college)

English-Developmental (Transitional) (#5793)

(Bachelor’s degree in English, or Bachelor's degree in education or related field with 18 hours in English and/or Reading)  

ESOL (#5832)

(Master’s degree in the discipline or ESOL teaching certification with at least 3 years work experience in the field)

History (#5941)

(Master’s degree in History or a Master’s with 18 graduate hours in History from an accredited college)

Humanities (#6464)

(A Master's degree in Humanities, Liberal Arts, Art History, or a Master's degree with a minimum of eighteen graduate semester hours from any one or combination of the following areas: Philosophy, English Literature, Arts, History, and Humanities. Graduate hours in Speech or Foreign Languages would not be appropriate. A Master’s in Classical Studies is appropriate. “Arts” is limited to an MFA or a minimum of 15 of the 18 graduate hours in non-performance art 

Philosophy (#6462)

(Master’s degree in Philosophy or a Master’s with 18 graduate hours in Philosophy from an accredited college)

If you are unable to attend this event but are interested in teaching at LSC-CyFair, please apply on-line so that the chairs are able to access and review your materials. 

Thank you in advance for your interest in teaching at Lone Star College–CyFair!

Talent Acquisition Team
5000 Research Forest
The Woodlands, TX  77381



Black Elk Speaks 1932; Love Medicine 1984, 1993

Continuities with Black Elk? What has changed about American Indian literature?

If Black Elk and Love Medicine are both examples of Native American literature, how do you talk about them together?


3b. Native American Indian alternative narrative: "Loss and Survival"

(Whereas immigrants define themselves by leaving the past behind in order to become American, the Indians were once “the Americans” but lost most of their land along with many of their people. Yet Native Americans defy the myth of "the vanishing Indian," choosing to "survive," sometimes in faith that the dominant culture will eventually destroy itself, and the forests and buffalo will return.)

 loss and survival, 124-125


Romanticization of Indian? or post-modern substitutes for Romanticism?


Evaluate description:

Erdrich as part of wave of recent ethnic women writers who balance wide popularity with critical respectability


What resemblances to popular + critically praised African American and Mexican American women writers (e. g. Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros)

"friendlier" writer than Morrison, but less profound--but pleasantly profound--how?


In brief, evaluate Erdrich's style--positively and negatively


How much do these issues impact  the "assimilation-resistance" conflict in minority literature? Does Native American literature / culture offer alternatives to these extremes of cross-cultural interaction?


"syncretism" 146


American Indians offer yet another option--a variant on assimilation that's sometimes called "acculturation." This is a form of change that's peculiar to traditional societies like Native America.

Broad distinction:

Assimilation: person or group gives up old culture to adapt to new culture; compare "conversion," where you give up old ways for new ones

Acculturation: old culture absorbs new items or ideas, incorporates them to pre-existing culture.

Example of American Indian acculturation: horses

Assimilation is more radical, revolutionary, more rapid and unsettling change.

Acculturation is more gradual--something relatively new can look like it's been there forever.


Examples of acculturation in Black Elk?





Indians & Asians

Original confusion by Columbus: Native Americans > "Indios" b/c he thought he'd discovered India

Still confusion over "Indians"--someone from India? Indian Americans or American Indians? Indian Americans say "Red Indians"

Deep-origin stories of American Indians: Asia like Africa for African Americans

Research complicates any single theory about Native American origins, but prevailing unitary theory . . .

Indians cross Bering Straits b/w Russia and Alaska 10-12 thousand years ago



In 1970s, this background developed as a theme in modern American Indian literature

Background: 20th-century Native American presence in U. S. Armed Forces

World War 2 (1942-45) against Japanese Asians

Vietnam War against Vietnamese Asians


Two major books of "American Indian Renaissance" of 1960s-70s describe irony of American Indians serving White America by fighting Asian Americans

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1968; Pulitzer Prize 1969)

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)


Love Medicine

116 Asian-looking eyes

176 Vietnam memory



3.  As in the course's previous three texts, Christian symbols and thought are interwoven with Native American religion, so note some examples.  What effect does this "syncretism" have on our perceptions of these differing traditions?  Where or how does Gerry Nanapush fit into these traditions?


review previous 3 texts?


opening chapter: eggs as fertility (cf rabbit) (syncretism already at work in Europe) (religion as abstract dialogue)

7 walking over snow like water

water imagery: baptism/cleansing or wandering? cf fish as Christ and fertility symbol


23 car and June

35 Firebird

37 northern lights . . . everything one piece

[cf 42 once they smash . . . can't be put right]


43 dark fish must rise

43 pray x Indian blood


45 where God had only half a hand in creation

46 smelled him on me [Satan or man?]


48 2 choices: cf Todorov: dog or angel


54 the vision rose up cf 145


67 cf wounded animals, killed saints


77 too handsome to be real, constructed by the Manitous


87 manitous, invisible ones who lived in the woods


101 Father Damien and the Pillager


108 swastika / wheel


117 Gerry as joker

118 natural criminal and hero


146 scar aches on Good Friday





4.  When the text's Indian characters move into the mainstream or white culture, through what means or institutions do they do so?  How is the white culture characterized?  Continue to notice differing attitudes toward nature, science, and time.  Notice how Eli and Nector explore different sides of the assimilation-resistance issue.


12 allotment

*18 Nector: dates, numbers, figures

*19 reading & writing x woods

21 oral, family story

29 house as communal property

32 fox name has significance

*68 bells, orders, flat voices, rough English x old language

*71 no clocks, white time x Indian time

73 old language, medicine ways, painted bones

81 old language x town, clothes

109 great relocation opportunities

110 > suburbs

112 a new and better metropolitan existence

171 cf



5.  How do the novel's characters conform to or rebel against stereotypes of the Indian?


124 falling Indian--plunge of the brave


how are gender issues apparent even across racial or ethnic divisions?  Pay attention not just to peer relations but to generational relationships and how they are transferred.


11 relationship a file we sharpened on

16 woman as land

29 Lipsha as "girl-eyes"

69 a father, the pattern of all men

84 needed a midwife, a mother

85 the old drunk woman I didn't claim as my mother any more

87 like me and not like me

92 [cf Bastard] girl imitates man

104 "I'm your son." "No more. I have only a daughter."

137 make her into my own private puppet

145 confusion of mother and daughter

169 cf Henry and Nector (Albertine's view)



2.  Identify alternative family structures and other unique social arrangements of the American Indian community.  What is the attitude toward intermarriage with outsiders or toward their offspring?  What divisions or classes exist in this Indian community?


14 marriageable = Catholic

15 white girl, Swedish boy

29 house as communal property

63 Lazarres x Kashpaws

75 too close a relation . . . dangerous to mix things up

89 they would not whisper "dirty Lazarre"

111 Bev's perfect tan

118 pack of boys, one organism

148 solid class, children well behaved and educated + dress

162 all colors of humans, [Henry] could tell they were not his




6.  I don't know how to ask this question perfectly respectfully or appropriately, but last year some undergrads appeared freaked by the sexual bravado of Love Medicine.  It strikes me that House Made of Dawn is a fairly sexy book in places, and Silko's Ceremony also has a definite interest in the subject.  Is this coincidence or is this something noteable about American Indians?  We might contrast this with the neglect or disdain for sexuality that is present in earlier texts.

--comedy plus creation; cf Hindu mythology


116 it was reaction I looked for

120 tasting his own miraculous continuance



assimilation/resistance : revolutionary/traditional


7 Great-uncle Eli x no-good Morrisey to cities; plus 33 King well-liked in the Cities

9 Zelda marries Swede Johnson

16 dates, numbers, figures stuck with Grandpa since he strayed

17 a son on either side of the line.  Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods


Eli still sharp, while Grandpa's mind had left us, gone wary and wild

cf 25 Grandpa paler than his brother


29 Eli explains skunk by point at different parts of his body


30 ciga swa old Cree



18 problem of memory (plus Washington)

23 I was light, clearly a breed (raised as an Indian)

24 [Lynette] don't fit in

34 Everything seemed to be one piece.

36 Lipsha's knowledge; I loved him for being both ways

37 vision memory

39 Lynette: we'll go back to the Cities, go home


Once they smash, there is no way to put them right.



7 "Patient Abuse" to nursing student and to Kashpaw

27 house like communal property for the Kashpaws





2 eggs as universal fertility symbol

6 Easter, Jesus walks on water

13 Catholic

22 June reborn as car 26 June's car

32 Lynette locked in the Firebird



10 mother-daughter relation (contrast Swede Johnson doomed to wander)

12 coming home

13 differenter they acted the more alike they showed themselves

14-15 Grandmaw Kashpaw as earth mother


Literacy as story-telling

20 "Then she got madder yet. . . ." I said.




white people

8 oil trash, boom trash

9-10 Swede Johnson, blond, bleak, and doomed to wander


11 the land my great-grandparents were allotted when the government decided to turn Indians into farmers; a joke; sold to the whites and lost forever


16 dates, numbers, figures stuck with Grandpa since he strayed


17 a son on either side of the line.  Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods


Eli still sharp, while Grandpa's mind had left us, gone wary and wild



31 Lynette; "I don't know nothing about my family, but I know I'm full-blooded Norwegian."