Comparative Approaches to Literature: Frontiers (Online)

ENGLSH 4170/7170
Section 01
Maureen Konkle
Online Asynchronous
Course Description

This asynchronous online course starts by taking the term "frontier" metaphorically: it begins with the imaginative rather than geographic border between European and Indigenous lives--but that is also inevitably about a geographic border, or the idea of geographic borders, as well. We'll be looking closely at historical, personal, and imaginative accounts of that point of contact from the eighteenth century to the present, in the continental United States, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii. About half of our reading will juxtapose Western depictions of Indigenous people through the nineteenth century with what Indigenous people had to say at the time and half will look at what contemporary Indigenous writers of literary fiction, science fiction, and memoir, as well as artists, have to say about that history. We'll begin by asking why Europeans needed the "savage" and how Indigenous people have understood what they were dealing with and negotiated its existence. We'll look at how Indigenous writers and artists have done battle with the "savage" and its complex repercussions even to the present day. We'll be reading works stretching from Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe to the Blackfeet/Gros Ventre novelist James Welch's Fools Crow (1986) and the contemporary Cree artist Kent Monkman's satirical history paintings. Assignments include two critical papers, a research project, weekly reflections on the reading/viewing, and participation in course discussion boards.

This course satisfies the Diversity Intensive requirement for students in the College of Arts and Sciences by focusing on the dynamic between Europeans and Indigenous people at the point of contact, addressing issues around colonization, settler colonialism, imperialism, Indigeneity, sovereignty, and decolonization. It seeks to give students a view of both the political and cultural significance of what Europeans have needed Indigenous people to be and the ongoing nature of Indigenous political, cultural, and aesthetic resistance to colonization across time.