LITR 5731 Seminar in American Multicultural Literature
Minority Literature

Lecture Notes

conclude Love Medicine


Literature 5435

The Enlightenment:  British Literature



Together let us beat this ample field,

Try what the open, what the covert yield;

The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore

Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar;

Eye Nature’s walks, shoot Folly as it flies;

And catch the manners living as they rise;

Laugh where we must, be candid where we can;

But vindicate the ways of God to Man.


--Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, 1733-34


Pope’s quote amply captures the assumptions of English literature from the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 until the start of the revolutionary period in 1789:  that it should act as social and intellectual criticism, for the betterment of mankind generally; that authors can through conversation, sometimes friendly, often savagely satirical, both spoken and published, arrive at a set of social and artistic standards of conduct that will vindicate the existence of some divine order; and that it is a vitally important weapon in the political and social arena.  And it is truly wonderful stuff:  dryly witty, frequently bawdy, usually hilarious, and almost always informed by a generous faith in the improvability of mankind.  It is also remarkable how this literature anticipates many of the problems of modern literary criticism:  the definitions of canons, concepts of textuality, and the problems of linguistic signification.  Like Pope inviting his friend St. John Bolingbroke to shoot folly as it flies, I invite you to come explore this truly wonderful literature.


Literature as Political Weapon:  John Dryden, John Locke

Various works by the Tory critic, poet and political writer, John Dryden:

 “Macflecknoe” and “Absolom and Achitophel”; selections

from the Whig political philosopher, John Locke:

Second Treatise on Government


Wit versus Precept:  Defining Literature

Various works of Enlightenment criticism: Dryden's

Essay of Dramatic Poesy, Pope's "Essay on Criticism,"

Johnson's "Preface to Shakespeare"


The English Theater, 1675-1775

Representative dramas including The Rover

by the Restoration adventuress and playwright, Aphra Behn;

The Rivals by the Georgian playwright, Richard Sheridan


The Augustan Satirists, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift

Various works by Pope, including “The Rape of the Lock,” “An Essay on Man,”

and “The Epistle to Arbuthnot”; Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels


The Great Mandarin:  Samuel Johnson

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson, Rasselas


The English Novel

Frances Burney, Evelina


Spring, 2013; Mondays, 4-7







Erdrich in wave of recent ethnic women writers who balance wide popularity with critical respectability. How? Compare / contrast to popular & critically praised African American and Mexican American women writers (e. g. Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, maybe Toni Morrison)

collections of stories > novels? What upsides or problems?

magic realism

religious symbols: eggs, firebird, fish, Good Friday

syncretism > Trickster

Questions for discussion / lecture:

Definitions of "trickster?"

Other examples?

upsides-downsides of mythological criticism

Love Medicine: Gerry Nanapush as trickster? How? What pleasures and profundities?


Application to minority literature:

outsider, excluded parties or styles

participation threatens, overturns hierarchies


Examples from our course?

Guitar in Song of Solomon

Sandy in Narrative of Life of Frederick Douglass

Slave Trickster Tales

Vitamin Kid and Horse in Bless Me, Ultima

Amerind origin stories handout

syncretism in Black Elk Speaks or Love Medicine

Black Elk Speaks--Ghost Dance and Messiah movement show bridging between Native American practice and Christian millenialism


Love Medicine--

opening chapter: eggs as fertility

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

43 dark fish must rise

146 scar aches on Good Friday


Syncretism in Virgin of Guadalupe? Bless Me, Ultima?



Trickster in Love Medicine

194-5 Gerry Nanapush, Chippewa / Ojibwe

195-6 Dot as twin trickster?

199 Gerry in pen for breaking otu

200 eellike properties > vanished

201 prison: lessons from professionals

203 child as 9-months prisoner > break

205 cat-quick, mass

209 rabbit

211 fertility



specific application to American Indian literature or culture?


Objective 4

To register the minority dilemma of assimilation or resistance—i. e., do you fight or join the culture that oppressed you? What balance do minorities strike between economic benefits and personal or cultural sacrifices?


4a. To identify the "new American" who crosses, combines, or confuses ethnic or gender identities (e. g., Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, K. D. Lang, Dennis Rodman, RuPaul, David Bowie)



American Indian as elusive, ephemeral identity: ghost dancers, off the grid, absorptive or acculturating at will

Contrast to static "Vanishing Indian" frozen in past

Black Elk is not simply a wise old medicine man, nor a Catholic convert

Everyone "likes" American Indians, but it's likely just a fantasy image that meets personal needs