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American Literature


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Title: American Literature

American Literature
  • Native American Literature

Native American Literature
  • The first American literature was created by the
    first people to live herethe Native Americans,
    who inhabited North America thousands of years
    before the first Europeans arrived.

Native American Literature
  • The original native peoples belonged to more than
    200 distinct groups who spoke more than 500
    different languages.
  • Their ways of life, was formed by their natural
    surroundings, and varied greatly.
  • They had complex religious beliefs, sophisticated
    political systems, and strong social values, all
    of which are reflected in their literature.

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Native American Literature
  • First things first, Literature is not limited to
    what is written down in books.

Native American Literature
  • Everyones first exposure to literature is
    orallullabies, bedtime stories, and nursery

Native American Literature
  • In Native American culture, the oral tradition
    was the way young kids learned tribal history and
  • This oral literature required huge amounts of
    memorization, so Native Americans often used drum
    music as a memory aide.

Native American Literature
  • This Native American oral literature was the
    first American Literature.
  • Some widespread types of Native American oral
    literature are
  • creation myths, which explain the beginning of
    the world tales of heroes and tricksters who
    transformed the world to its present state and
    the ritual songs and chants that are part of

Native American Literature
  • Although traditional Native American literature
    has many forms and functions, much of it
    emphasizes the importance of living in harmony
    with the natural world.

Native American Literature
  • According to Native American beliefs, human
    beings have a kinship with animals, plants, the
    land, heavenly bodies, and the elements.

Native American Literature
  • All of these things are seen as alive and aware.
    Furthermore, the human and the nonhuman are seen
    as parts of a sacred whole.
  • To Native Americans, human beings do not have
    dominion over nature they are part of nature and
    must act to maintain a right relationship with
    the world around them.

Native American Literature
  • Native Americans and their traditions have not
    disappeared from this country.

Native American Literature
  • Although some cultures were lost to the diseases
    and violence of the Europeans, others have
    survivedchanged but not destroyed by forced
    religious education.

Native American Literature
  • Today, Native Americans live in cities and
    suburbs as well as on reservations.
  • They are keeping oral traditions alive by singing
    songs and telling stories, but they are also
    writing in English.

Native American Literature
  • Many contemporary Native American authors are
    enjoying unprecedented respect and popularity.
  • Most of these writers display a powerful interest
    in the problems of harmonizing the old and the
  • The structures of the works themselves are often
    based on a blend of oral techniques and new
    literary forms.

Native American Literature
  • The fact that these writers continue to draw on
    traditional sources for inspiration and have
    found such wide acclaim demonstrates the enduring
    value of our countrys first literature.

Types of Native American Literature
Trickster Tales
  • Trickster Tales are a type of Native American
  • Trickster tales are folk tales that feature an
    animal (coyote, raven, etc) or human character
    who engages in deceit, violence, or magic.

Trickster Tales
  • Often Trickster Tales are mythic, explaining
    features of the world.
  • Tricksters can often be contradictory. For
    example, they can be greedy but helpful, clever
    but dumb, moral yet very immoral.

Trickster Tales
  • Strategies for reading trickster tales
  • See the footnotes for explanations of Native
    words and ideas.
  • Accept magical transformations and animals who
    behave as humans.
  • Note mysteries of nature that are explained.
  • Infer the social values taught through the
    characters and situations.
  • Note details that reveal other aspects of Native
    American culture.

Trickster Tales
  • In these traditional Native American tales, there
    is no sharp distinction drawn between humans and
    the rest of the natural world, suggesting a
    philosophy that views humans in harmony with

Trickster Tales
  • Trickster tales often have a cause-and-effect
    structure on two levels.
  • First, the entire story explains the cause of
    some aspect of the natural world.
  • Second, the plot of the tale unfolds as a series
    of casually related events.

Creation Myths
  • A creation myth explains how the universe, earth,
    and life began.

Creation Myths
  • Creation myths, to some extent, are imaginative
    stories of cause and effect. When events have a
    cause-and-effect relationship, one (the cause)
    directly brings about the other (the effect).

Creation Myths
  • Creation myths, like all myths, can be viewed as
    essentially religious, presenting the cosmic
    views of the cultural groups that create them.