“One might choose to follow only one path, either African or Native American, turning one’s back on a tradition that lies across the way. Yet one might instead choose to linger at the crossroads, sitting down for a drink brimming with the salt water of the Middle Passage and the Trail of Tears, pouring a libation and offering tobacco, and listening carefully to the interwoven strands of storytelling from African and Native American literary traditions.”
Throughout this class we will consider the crossroads Brennan articulates. The crossroads, marked by an X, offers a visual and symbolic point of intersection with undefined meaning and the potential for fateful outcomes. Reading literary and historical texts students will consider how the crossroads carries specific meanings for an Afro-Native literary tradition. Students will bring Scott Lyons’ theorization of the X mark, as the signature Native people placed on treaties, to issues of coercion and consent in African American literature and history. By considering these traditions together this class focuses on texts that speak in a triple voice, inflected by echoes of a Native American oral tradition, flashes of African American vernacular culture, and forms and techniques adapted from various models of modern Western literature. Students will read literary works as well as primary and secondary historical sources that point us to the sometimes powerful and also fraught intersections of Black and Indian histories in the United States from the nineteenth century to the decades following the Civil Rights and Black and Red Power movements. Topics of particular attention include land and politics, history and identity, and gender and sexuality, and focus on themes of race, place, family, and belonging. Some of the authors featured in this course are Vine Deloria Jr., Michael Dorris, Leslie Marmon Silko, Kaylynn Two Trees, Alice Walker, Frances Washburn, and Craig Womack. In addition to active participation in seminar discussions students will write a series of short papers in response to the readings and conduct short research assignments.
Limited to 20 Students. Spring semester. Professor Vigil.