Date of this Version
My thesis project is a four-section paper exploring the topic of belonging and assimilation in the works of four indigenous women writers. Each section focuses on the autobiographical elements in the pieces of fiction or non-fiction of each author.
The first two sections are dedicated to the writers of the first half of the twentieth century—Zitkala-Ša (born Getrude Simmons; Dakota) and Pauline Johnson (Canadian Mohawk). Both were among the first female Native writers to appear visibly on the literary scene and to voice the problematic issues of living in “two worlds”—white and traditional Native American. The analyzed texts for the first two sections are Zitkala-Ša’s American Indian Stories, published in 1921, and Pauline Johnson’s story collection The Moccasin Maker, published posthumously in 1914. There will be elements of a comparative study since both authors bring up the subject of conflict between two worldview systems that have to go side by side, but do not quite sync. The elements of comparative study between the creativity of these two writers are in part implemented in the section dedicated to Emily Pauline Johnson.
The last two sections concentrate on autobiographical works of Leslie Marmon Silko and Janet Campbell Hale. In contrast with the first two authors, these two writers’ texts are strictly nonfictional and have a stronger emphasis on individual experiences. Both writers belong to the second half of the twentieth century and in their creativity more directly deals
with the intricacies of success and balance in the white world. Janet Campbell Hale’s Bloodlines and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Yellow Woman and a Beauty of Spirit are the primary texts I work with.
In general terms, I will be looking at how the rhetoric and means of expression changed for Native women writers throughout the century. The early writings aimed at attracting the Western reader to gain more understanding of Native cultures; in contrast, writers of the following decades employed a more straightforward approach in order to alter the colonialist vision of indigenous people, their outlook and traditions.
Advisor: Frances W. Kaye