Native American Women Writers

Syllabus / Schedule

--Fall 2019--
9:30-10:20 MWF    ANDR 033

Last Updated: 18 August 2019

Contact InfoSyllabusSchedule
ESSAY #1Essay Gradesheet (PDF)MLA Tips & Template (WORD doc.)
Correction SymbolsCourse "NOTES" Page (incl. immediate ASSIGNMENTS)

Contact Information: THOMAS C. GANNON        

OFFICE:346 Andrews Hall
MAILBOX:227 Andrews Hall
OFFICE HOURS:W, 10:20-11:20 a.m., TH, 2:00-3:00 p.m., & F, 10:20-11:20 a.m.; and by appointment . . . and email, of course::::
COURSE WEB PAGE(s): < > (= this SYLLABUS page) and
  < > ("NOTES"/Assignments page)
    —both also accessible via Canvas (< >)


"I am a dangerous woman. . . . They can't hear the clicking / of the gun inside my head."
  —Joy Harjo

COURSE DESCRIPTION/OBJECTIVES: This course is a survey of Native American literary women, a study and appreciation of their works from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Not only will the class consider a diversity of genres (including folklore, poetry, creative nonfiction, short stories, and the novel), but a variety of political stances will be examined—as Native women have written back against the "Master's house"—including Native traditionalism, feminism, and ecofeminism. Even more than male Native writers, these women have struggled with the question, how can one "imagine a new language when the language of the enemy" seems to have inevitably rendered the indigenous female Other culturally inarticulate? At last, I hope these works will demonstrate that such a "new language" is being powerfully articulated in contemporary Native American women literature(s).

    By passing this course, you will fulfill ACE Learning Outcome 5: "Use knowledge, historical perspectives, analysis, interpretation, critical evaluation, and the standards of evidence appropriate to the humanities to address problems and issues." Your work will be evaluated by the instructor according to the specifications described in this syllabus. At the end of the term, you may be asked to provide samples of your work for ACE assessment as well. (2019 note: Since you'll be submitting formal assignments to Canvas, you will have provided such "samples" by default.)
    Opportunities to achieve this outcome: Students will read a wide range of literary genres by Native women authors, with the aim of analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating individual texts, and understanding these texts in their socio-political context. The knowledge and vocabulary to carry out such analyses may be delivered through class lecture and discussion, as well as the reading of secondary materials.
    Opportunities to demonstrate achievement of this outcome: Students will be asked to demonstrate their ability to analyze, interpret, and evaluate assigned texts both orally and in writing. All students will be required to write formal papers using appropriate evidence; these may take the form of close analyses of assigned texts for which quotations and concrete details from the texts themselves are the primary evidence, and/or they may take the form of analyses drawing upon research into secondary materials. Students will also be required to write shorter informal response papers, make a class presentation, and take in-class exams.


    By passing this course, you will fulfill ACE Learning Outcome 9: "Exhibit global awareness or knowledge of human diversity through analysis of an issue." Your work will be evaluated by the instructor according to the specifications described in this syllabus. At the end of the term, you may be asked to provide samples of your work for ACE assessment as well. (2019 note: Since you'll be submitting formal assignments to Canvas, you will have provided such "samples" by default.)
    Opportunities to achieve this outcome: This survey course of Native American literatures will allow students to explore a wide range of texts by Native women who have (usually) written back against the "Master's house." Students will thus critically evaluate a representative cross-section of Native American women's literature of different genres in a course organized around cultural, social, national, religious, and historical issues and themes, through reading, class discussion, and writing assignments that help them examine the role of these writers in history, society, and culture.
    Opportunities to demonstrate achievement of this outcome: Assignments will provide a range of opportunities for students to apply historical knowledge and literary analysis to problems and issues, especially their knowledge of human diversity, relevant to the literary texts by Native American women under discussion. A variety of writing assignments, group activities, and class discussions are designed to require both close reading and cultural/historical analysis of literary texts. Students will have multiple opportunities to relate socio-political knowledge and learned skills of literary interpretation for the analysis of the significance of the texts, to compare them across authors and periods, to examine the diversity of the writers, and to assess their cultural and aesthetic importance.

• Harjo, Joy, and Gloria Bird, eds. Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writing of North America. New York: Norton, 1998.
• Zitkala-Ša [Gertrude Bonnin]. American Indian Stories [1921]. New ed. Lincoln: Bison Books, 2003.
• Harjo, Joy. How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. New York: Norton, 2002.
• Hogan, Linda. Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World. New York: Simon, 2007. [Older 1995/1996 edition is fine.]
• Silko, Leslie Marmon. Gardens in the Dunes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
—Plus, Your PRINTOUTS of PDF files on Canvas—

TEXTS "on RESERVE" (Love Library):
        • The following texts USED to be reserved for your research-essay efforts. But given the fact that most students now avail themselves of digital materials, this has become "just" a list of relevant books available at the Love. (Unless another student has already checked out that book you wanted out, of course; but this way is still a superior option, I think, given the limited check-out time allowed for reserve texts.)::::::::
        • For many more secondary sources, in PDF format, see "Course Documents" in Canvas.
Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Restoring the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston, Beacon Press, 1986.
---, ed. Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.
Erdrich, Louise. The Blue Jay's Dance : A Birth Year. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
---. Jacklight. New York: Holt, 1984.
Green, Rayna, ed.: That's What She Said: Contemporary Poetry and Fiction by Native American Women. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984.
Harjo, Joy. In Mad Love and War. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 1990.
---. A Map to the Next World. New York: Norton, 2000.
---. She Had Some Horses. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983.
---. The Spiral of Memory: Interviews. Ed. Laura Coltelli. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.
Hogan, Linda. Calling Myself Home. Greenfield Center: Greenfield Review Press, 1978.
---. The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir. New York: Norton, 2001.
Hogan, Linda, and Brenda Peterson, eds. The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World. New York: North Point Press, 2001.
Joy Harjo [video]. Dir. Dan Griggs. Lannan Foundation, 1995.  [can't put on reserve, but at Love]
Linda Hogan [video]. Dir. Dan Griggs. Lannan Foundation, 1996.  [can't put on reserve, but at Love]
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Conversations with Leslie Marmon Silko. Ed. Ellen L. Arnold. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2000.
---. Laguna Woman: Poems [1974]. 2nd ed. Tucson: Flood Plain Press, 1994.
---. Storyteller. New York: Arcade, 1981.
---. Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today. New York: Simon, 1996.
Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds.  I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1987.
        [incl. biogr. essays by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Paula Gunn Allen, Diane Glancy, Linda Hogan, Wendy Rose, and Joy Harjo]
Wilson, Norma. The Nature of Native American Poetry. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2001.
        [incl. chapters on Roberta Hill, Linda Hogan, Wendy Rose, and Joy Harjo]
Zitkala-Ša [Gertrude Bonnin]. American Indian Stories. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1985.
        [same pagination for main text, but different intro]
---. Old Indian Legends [1901].   Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1985.

ATTENDANCE is highly recommended, not only because you'll learn more, but because graded in-class activities will be a significant part of your final grade—and, of course, good attendance will go far in helping me determine your "Participation" points (see below). Most importantly, an inordinate number of unexcused absences (>6) will result in your final course grade being lowered by one letter grade. Also, the only way you can make up graded in-class work is if you provide documented proof of an excused absence—preferably in advance. (NOTE: official documentation for an excused absence must be provided within a week of that absence. Also, informing me after a missed class that you were sick or otherwise absent, without documentation from a doctor, coach, or Student Health, etc., does not constitute an excused absence. In other words, email me in advance that you're sicker'n'a dog, and I'll believe yu'.) A few more "rules": if you're not here during my (either oral or silent) roll-taking, you are LATE; an inordinate number of tardies, too, will also be considered in determining your Participation points.

        • NOTE: "Pop" quizzes cannot be made up, unless you have notified me BEFORE the beginning of class that you qualify for an excused absence. If the excuse is okayed by yours truly, I will assign you a brief writing assignment regarding the reading(s) in question so that you can make up the points.


AssignmentNumber of ~PointsTotal Points
Formal Essays2250500
Informal Responses360180
Pop Quizzes620120
Group Presentation1100100
Total:- - - - - - - -- - - -1,000
Final Point Total -> Final Grade:
970-1,000 = A+930-969 = A900-929 = A-- - - -
870-899 = B+830-869 = B800-829 = B-- - - -
770-799 = C+730-769 = C700-729 = C-- - - -
670-699 = D+630-669 = D600-629 = D-0-599 = F

    The three informal written RESPONSES will be graded holistically, and be assigned a point total (out of 60 possible) comparable to the final-grade schema above: e.g., an A- = 54 or 55, a C = 44, 45, or 46, etc. For the formal ESSAY assignments, each component of the assignment (content, organization, and grammar/mechanics)—the detailed guidelines of which will be eventually spelled out below on this web syllabus—will be assigned a grade (translated into a point total) based upon the following rubric:
  A: "You are to be applauded for 'going beyond' most or all of the required criteria in an outstanding fashion!"    8-)
  B: "Not only did you meet the required criteria but, for at least some of these criteria, you went 'beyond the call of duty' in some noteworthy manner!"    :-D
  C: "Okay! You fulfilled the required/minimum criteria for this component!"    :-)
  D: "You failed to meet at least some of the minimum criteria for this component."    :-(
  F: "Your lack of attention to the minimum criteria for this component reveals a basic misunderstanding of the assignment and/or a lack of class attendance."    :'-{

PARTICIPATION: Oral Participation points will be allotted twice, at midterm and at semester's end, based on the quality of your contribution to at-large oral discussions of the readings and to various small-group activities involving said readings. Consider it your standing informal assignment, for each day's readings, to come to class with at least three points about the reading(s) that you could (at least potentially) bring up in discussion; these might be 1) "+'s": passages that you find especially enlightening or entertaining; 2) "-'s": occasions where you are disturbed by the reading, even to the point of irritation or anger; 3) "?'s": places in the text that you find very confusing, even incomprehensible. (You don't have to write these down, unless I'm reduced to the point of requiring it: simple annotations in the text's margins will do. Ultimately, I'm asking you to read carefully & critically, not just to go through the motions.) . . . To reinforce a previous if obvious point, attendance per se is essential to acquiring a decent point total for this component of your final grade. A less obvious point (to some previous students, apparently): coming to class without the assigned readings (texts, Canvas PDFs, etc.) is nearly as useless as not coming to class at all, and will also be noted and taken into account in determining your participation score.

        • Digital Text Policy: Only dedicated eReaders (e.g., Nook, Kindle, even the iPad) are allowed as substitutes for hardcopy texts (if applicable) and PDF printouts. Accessing the material on a mobile phone is, frankly, absurd (and reveals an ad hoc unpreparedness); also, accessing course PDFs on your laptop in class says to me that you may not have read them in the first place. Finally, I'm requiring that assigned PDFs be printed out & brought to class, in good measure for the reasons above. Call me "old school," but experience has taught me that a digital reading (of assigned "literature," anyway) is more often than not an unreflective reading.

For "POP QUIZZES," I will simply ask you to write about the day's assigned readings for six minutes; such responses can certainly include your evaluation of the texts (liked? disliked? why?), but should above all demonstrate that you've done the reading(s) through frequent reference to textual specifics. Points will then be assigned on a holistic basis.At last, this aspect of the course serves as a simple reading check. I've only recently resorted to this evaluative measure, after over 20 years of teaching; but it's finally struck me (I'm really slow!) that some English majors are not as in love with words as I was as an undergraduate. (It's been a long, slow, painful lesson, as I've said.) . . . Ah, so I should remind you, then, to bring paper & a pen or pencil to every class meeting, especially if you're inclined to take all your notes on your laptop.

INFORMAL Written RESPONSES: Every few weeks (see schedule below), you will engage a specific group of course readings in a TWO-page (or more) written response, in reaction to (a choice of) prompts provided by your instructor. While computer print-outs are preferred, I will accept legible hand-written responses. And in contrast to the formal essays, these will be evaluated (almost) solely on CONTENT; however, egregious organizational or mechanical problems that militate against a facile understanding of said content may result in a lower score. . . . While I will eventually provide possible writing prompts (both analytical & creative) for each response before it is due, a major grading criterion is that you demonstrate that you have done the assigned readings for the time span covered. In fact, one option will always be the simple keeping of a "reading journal" in which you respond to the readings as you see fit. (Again, creative reactions are allowed, even encouraged.) Much of this may consist of brief paragraph responses to each of (or most of) the readings. I might even suggest doing these right after you read, and before class discussion, to the profit of your oral participation.

FORMAL ESSAYS: Guidelines for the formal essays will be presented later, on a detailed "handout" for each (to be available on this page, below). I plan to allow you several choices for each essay, to allow different personality types and learning styles to shine. While this is not a "writing" class in the strictest sense of the term, a small percentage of your essay point total will be based on yr speling, punktuashun, sentens struktures, and adherence to the MLA stylesheet. . . . . . . NEW (2019): To save a tree or two, please upload Essay #1 and Essay #2 to CANVAS; graded (& commented-all-up in WORD) essays will later be re-uploaded to Canvas for your perusal and edification.

        DUE DATES, PAPER LENGTH, & ESSAY FORMAT:Unless special arrangements have been made, LATE written responses & essays will be docked 10% (= one letter grade) of their assigned point total for EACH DAY LATE, including all non-class days. (This includes Saturdays & Sundays. To prevent untoward accidents, save multiple copies of your work on a flash drive or cloud, etc.; and don't wait until the last minute to print out that essay.) . . . Because of problems in the past in this regard, responses are due by/at the BEGINNING of the class period of the day it is due. If you will be absent (and EXCUSED) on a particular due date, email me a copy of your assignment by the beginning of class to demonstrate its completion; then provide me with a hard copy later, for me to grade. . . . While there is no "short" penalty per se, a paper that obviously fails to meet the assignment's minimum length guidelines will no doubt fail to gain a goodly number of points in criterion areas such as adequate development and support. Note, too, that a page padded with margins > 1" and a font > 12 pt. type does not equal "one page." Essays should follow the MLA stylesheet format, including the documentation of sources via parenthetical citations and a Works Cited page (which, however, doesn't count as a "page" towards the length requirement). (See my WORD template on the SYLL page as a guide, if you're new to MLA.)

PLAGIARISM is the undocumented use of another's words or ideas as your own, whether it be an entire paper that you didn't write or an almost word-for-word "paraphrase" from an outside source. Don't do it. Not only are you cheating yourself by wasting your time and money, but plagiarism is one of the most serious of academic offenses and will result, at a bare minimum, in a score of 0 for the assignment. You may also be failed from the course and be subject to further University sanctions, as the incident warrants.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability that may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please talk with me before/after class or during my office hours.
        [Official SSD Statement:] Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides individualized academic support for students with documented disabilities. Support services can include extended test time, textbooks and handouts in alternative formats (electronic texts, Braille, taped texts, etc), classroom notes, sign language interpreters, and transcriptionists. SSD not only accommodates students that have visible disabilities, but students with other varying types of disabilities that impact college life. If you have a documented disability that is impacting your academic progress, please call SSD at 472-3787 and schedule an appointment. If you do not have a documented disability but you are having difficulties with your coursework (such as receiving low grades even though you study more than your classmates or find you run out of time for test questions when the majority of your peers finish their exams in the allotted time), you may schedule an appointment to discuss the challenges you are experiencing.



    (—see the Course NOTES page at any time for the next class meeting's immediate assignments—)

WEEK 1 (Aug. 26th, 28th, 30th):: Syllabus, course introduction (incl. Peter Pan excerpt; Burns: "Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question" {PDF on Canvas}); P. G. Allen: Introduction to The Sacred Hoop {PDF on Canvas}; Reinventing: Harjo & Bird's Introduction (19-); Allen: "Going Home, December 1992" (150-); ESSAY #1 assignment (below)

WEEK 2 (. . . Sept. 4th, 6th):: more from Reinventing: ["SISTERHOOD" ESSAYS & POEMS:] Petersen: "Missing You" (Reinventing 104-); Woody: "The Girlfriends" (102-); Hill: "To Rose" (309-); Tapahonso: "What Danger We Court" (314-); Big Boy: "I Will Bring You Twin Grays" (317-); [more POEMS:] Boyne: "Invocation" (31-); Gould: "Coyotismo" (52-); McGlashan: "The Island of Women" (67-); Tremblay: "Indian Singing in 20th-Century America" (169-)

WEEK 3 (Sept. 9th, 11th, 13th):: more from Reinventing: Hale: "The Only Good Indian" (123-);

WEEK 4 (Sept. 16th, 18th, 20th):: More from Reinventing: [POEMS:] Lee: "Confession" (186-); Red Elk: "For Thieves Only" (187-); Dauenhauer: "How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River" (201-); Midge: "Written in Blood" (211-); Midge: "Mount Rushmore & the Arm of Crazy Horse" {PDF on Canvas}; Joe: "Expect Nothing Else from Me" (220-); Chrystos: "The Old Indian Granny" (231-); Million: "The Housing Poem" (163-); [ESSAY:] Fire: "Hard-to-Kill Woman" (300-)
    M: Response #1 Due

WEEK 5 (Sept. 23rd, 25th, 27th):: More from Reinventing: [ESSAY:] Brave Bird: "We AIM Not to Please" (336-); [SHORT STORIES (of ACTIVISM):] Maracle: "Who's Political Here?" (246-); LaDuke: "Ogitchida Ikwewag" (263-); begin Zitkala-Ša's American Indian Stories (complete assigned readings: 7-99, 109-125, 185-195)

WEEK 6 (Sept. 30th, Oct. 2nd, 4th):: American Indian Stories (continued)
    • M: own topic (if desired) for Essay #2 due

WEEK 7 (Oct. 7th, 9th, 11th):: finish up American Indian Stories; more from Reinventing: ["GRIEF" ESSAY, SHORT STORIES & POEM:] Levchuk: "Leaving Home for Carlisle Indian School" (175-); Jacobs: "One-Hundred-Dollar Boots" (271-); Endrezze: "The Constellation of Angels" (281-); Tapahonso: "All the Colors of Sunset" (319-); Power: "Beaded Soles" (374-); Brant: "Stillborn Night" (352-)
    M: Response #2 Due

WEEK 8 (Oct. 14th, 16th, 18th):: More from Reinventing: [SHORT STORY:] Midge: "Beets" {PDF on Canvas}; [POEMS:] Noel: "Understanding Each Other" (233-); Rendon: "You See This Body" (279-); northsun: "99 things to do before you die" (394-); Erdrich: "The Strange People" {PDF on Canvas}; Joy Harjo: "Metamorphosis" {PDF on Canvas}; Reinventing: "Warrior Road" (55-); begin Harjo's How We Became Human

WEEK 9 (. . . Oct. 23rd, 25th):: How We Became Human (continued); ESSAY #2 assignment/handout (below);
    • W: ESSAY #1 DUE

WEEK 10 (Oct. 28th, 30th, Nov. 1st):: finish up How We Became Human; begin Linda Hogan's Dwellings (11-41, 47-76, 109-159)

WEEK 11 (Nov. 4th, 6th, 8th):: Dwellings (continued); some of Hogan's poetry & her essay "First People" {PDF on Canvas}

WEEK 12 (Nov. 11th, 13th, 15th):: Leslie Marmon Silko: "The Border Patrol State" {online}; begin Gardens in the Dunes

WEEK 13 (Nov. 18th, 20th, 22nd):: Gardens in the Dunes (continued)
    M: Response #3 Due

WEEK 14 (Nov. 25th . . .):: Gardens in the Dunes (continued)
    • TU: own topic (if desired) for Essay #2 due

WEEK 15 (Dec. 2nd, 4th, 6th):: Gardens in the Dunes (continued); Presentation planning; start Group Presentations(?)

WEEK 16 (Dec. 9th, 11th, 13th):: finish up Silko—and GROUP PRESENTATIONS
    ESSAY #2 DUE: noon, TU, Dec. 17th (end of scheduled final exam time)


    ** ESSAY #1: "Of Red Birds & Blackbirds": Reinventing Native Women **    


    ** ESSAY #2: "In the Fifth World, You're Really On Your Own"    


** SILKO's GARDENS: Tiospaye Presentation Guidelines    


KEY to Correction Symbols/Abbrevs. I Commonly Use on Your Essays:


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