LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature Lecture Notes

American Indian Minority vs. the immigrant narrative.


Leslie Marmon Silko, b. 1944

 


Louise Erdrich, b. 1953


Mei Mei Evans

 

 

Last class: learn rules to break them

critical thinking, analysis, divides worlds into categories, separates this from that to define, etc.

humans are part of history

humans highly creative, transgressive, restless

 

Midterm:

Model Minorities as our main examples of immigrant narrative, + "The English Lesson" > New World Immigrants

 

Research report proposal

can repeat previous reports

can use previous reports as sources

 

 

American Indians return in dominant culture section

 

 

 

1. In the texts today, how does American Indian culture appear as Minority rather than Immigrant? Note relations to state, government, immigration, etc.

2. Compare and contrast to immigrant stories or poems so far. How does the American Indian's position in or relation to American history or society differ from the positions and attitudes of immigrants?

3. Compare to African American literature as opposition or resistance rather than assimilation to white society? But also what differences from African American literature?

4. Based on these texts, what accommodations or acculturations do American Indians make to dominant or immigrant American culture? How do these accommodations or acculturations resemble or differ from assimilation?

5. Minorities maintain traditional cultures with extended families, while immigrants join a modern culture with nuclear families or individuals. How do these phenomena appear in today's stories?

 

 

1. In the texts today, how does American Indian culture appear as Minority rather than Immigrant? Note relations to state, government, immigration, etc.

2. Compare and contrast to immigrant stories or poems so far. How does the American Indian's position in or relation to American history or society differ from the positions and attitudes of immigrants?

 

English Lesson”

27 NYC, ethnic groups > Dutch (x-Indians)

 

Contrast "Land of the Free" p. 3

 

5 handsome smiling young man; across ocean another country, virtuous people

5 Those people are virtuous, they have no unnatural evil habits and they are honest. A great reward is yours if you will help me. Here are five things that men and women enjoy; take them to these people and make them as white men are. Then shall you be rich and powerful and you may become the chief of all great preachers here."

10 he said, "I think I have made an enormous mistake for I did not dream that these people would suffer so." Then did even the devil himself lament that his evil had been so great.

 

"American Horse"

214 those 2 white people

 

Issue of voluntary vs. forced participation

Immigrants choose to join up

"Gussuk"

237 khaki skirt and tasseled loafers + yellow legal tablet + organizes files + pride in her efficiency + foreign film (plain style, papers)

238 "I'm Chinese-American. My grandmother was Chinese." > first real job, as the region's new public health nurse (1/4 Chinese?)

Minorities forced

American Indians: already here, "America" rolled over

"American Horse"

210 something coming

210 large thing of metal, crushing, its path

211 [dream] wrong direction

 220 the thing had hooked him

 

 

Gussuk"

244 Robert went to Fairbanks: "Too many gussuks. I got homesick." (x-join, > resist or remain separate)

246 But she wasn't one of them; she had to look out for herself.

248 "It's the fourth of July." . . . "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Freedom and liberty and all that jazz." She hoisted the six-pack . . .  

249 She'd acted recklessly, unprofessionally. She would make certain that it never happened again. (dominant culture)

 

 

3. Compare to African American literature as opposition or resistance rather than assimilation to white society? But also what differences from African American literature?

 

"American Horse"

212 Sioux policeman, Red Tomahawk, who killed Sitting Bull (traitor x resistance, hold-out)

 

4. Based on these texts, what accommodations or acculturations do American Indians make to dominant or immigrant American culture? How do these accommodations or acculturations resemble or differ from assimilation?

 

213 Uncle Lawrence   (acculturation)

 

“The Man to Send Rain Clouds”

acculturation

206 Army jacket

206 candles and medicine bags

207 holy water x thirsty

207 old carved door with symbols of Lamb, twin bells from King of Spain (acculturation)

208 You know I can’t do that.  Should have been last rites and a funeral Mass at the very least.

208 then he remembered that this was New Mexico

208 wondering, some perverse Indian trick—to ensure a good harvest

 

"Gussuk"

237 he, too, had noticed their resemblance to each other (Asian)

239 dogs come inside the schoolhouse

242 "That other nurse, she didn't belong here."

242 "You look Eskimo. Now you gotta act Eskimo." (acculturation)

 

5. Minorities maintain traditional cultures with extended families, while immigrants join a modern culture with nuclear families or individuals. How do these phenomena appear in today's stories?

issue: traditional extended families vs. modern individualism and nuclear / broken families

immigrants: assimilation > individualism, nuclear / broken families

minorities: plenty of "broken" families, but also remnants of traditional extended families

Question: Where do extended families appear in today's stories?

 

“The Man to Send Rain Clouds”

206 neighbors and clanspeople (cf. neighborhood in "The Lesson")

 

"American Horse"

216 extended family

214 Ma frere (extended family)

217 Michif--Ma Cousin (extended family)

 

"Gussuk"--

251 Anna: "I'm Robert's cousin."

issue shows up mainly in privacy issues

239 children followed her . . . watched her undress

240 Mom says you eat with us

241 closeness of people in a small space

241 He casually unzipped his fly and peed into the bucket, watching them at the table the whole time, as if he didn't want to miss anything

(dominant culture as plumbing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW THE WHITE RACE CAME TO AMERICA

related by So-Son-Dowa

1 where swarmed many people

1 preacher of queen's religion

2 volumes hidden in chest   (literacy dangerous)

2 no right to read the book

2 a great man who had been a prophet and the son of the Great Ruler. He had been born on the earth and the white men to whom he preached killed him. Now moreover the prophet had promised to return and become the King. In three days he was to come and then in forty to start his kingdom. This did not happen as his followers had expected

3 chief preacher: seek him out

4 [dream?] morning, river, island, castle of gold

5 handsome smiling young man; across ocean another country, virtuous people

5 Those people are virtuous, they have no unnatural evil habits and they are honest. A great reward is yours if you will help me. Here are five things that men and women enjoy; take them to these people and make them as white men are. Then shall you be rich and powerful and you may become the chief of all great preachers here."

6 bundle containing the five things and made the bargain

6 castle and island vanish

7 a flask of rum, a pack of playing cards, a handful of coins, a violin and a decayed leg bone.

8 a man named Columbus and to him he confided the story. Then did Columbus secure some big canoes and raise up wings [sails]

9 the evil one

10 he said, "I think I have made an enormous mistake for I did not dream that these people would suffer so." Then did even the devil himself lament that his evil had been so great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thesis: Minority Literature tells a different kind of story from Immigrant Literature

Example 1 from today's readings

Issue of voluntary vs. forced participation

 

Immigrants choose to join up

"Gussuk"

237 khaki skirt and tasseled loafers + yellow legal tablet + organizes files + pride in her efficiency + foreign film

238 "I'm Chinese-American. My grandmother was Chinese." > first real job, as the region's new public health nurse

Minorities forced

American Indians: already here, "America" rolled over

"American Horse"

210 something coming

210 large thing of metal, crushing, its path

211 [dream] wrong direction

 220 the thing had hooked him

 

 

 

"The Lesson," 150-151

Upon exposure to the dominant culture's heights on 5th Avenue, the normal Immigrant or American Dream response would be to ask, How do I get a piece of this? How do I get my share of this great wealth?

The African American teacher and children (Miss Moore, Sylvia, and Sugar) see something different . . . .

Not something they want to join . . .

Rather they see something that's gone wrong, basically unfair . . . .

 

 

African Americans often cooperate with dominant culture, but have option (or necessity) of standing somewhat apart. Dominant culture refers to African America as a separate people. African America gains right to criticize or dissent.

"American Horse"

212 Sioux policeman, Red Tomahawk, who killed Sitting Bull

214 those 2 white people

"Gussuk"

244 Robert went to Fairbanks: "Too many gussuks. I got homesick."

246 But she wasn't one of them; she had to look out for herself.

248 "It's the fourth of July." . . . "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Freedom and liberty and all that jazz." She hoisted the six-pack . . .  

249 She'd acted recklessly, unprofessionally. She would make certain that it never happened again.

 

American Indians offer yet another option--a variant on assimilation that's sometimes called "acculturation." This is a form of change that's peculiar to traditional societies like Native America.

Broad distinction:

Assimilation: person or group gives up old culture to adapt to new culture; compare "conversion," where you give up old ways for new ones

Acculturation: old culture absorbs new items or ideas, incorporates them to pre-existing culture.

Example of American Indian acculturation: horses

Assimilation is more radical, revolutionary, more rapid and unsettling change.

Acculturation is more gradual--something relatively new can look like it's been there forever.

“The Man to Send Rain Clouds”

Acculturation

206 Army jacket

206 candles and medicine bags

207 holy water x thirsty

207 old carved door with symbols of Lamb, twin bells from King of Spain

208 You know I can’t do that.  Should have been last rites and a funeral Mass at the very least.

208 then he remembered that this was New Mexico

208 wondering, some perverse Indian trick—to ensure a good harvest

 

"Gussuk"

237 he, too, had noticed their resemblance to each other

239 dogs come inside the schoolhouse

242 "That other nurse, she didn't belong here."

242 "You look Eskimo. Now you gotta act Eskimo."

 

follow-up to dominant culture moment

 

 

"English Lesson"

Stephen Paczkowski, professor of music

"He was always neatly dressed in a business suit, with a shirt and tie, and carried a briefcase. His manner was reserved but friendly."

 

 

"Gussuk"

237 khaki skirt and tasseled loafers + yellow legal tablet + organizes files + pride in her efficiency + foreign film

238 "I'm Chinese-American. My grandmother was Chinese." > first real job, as the region's new public health nurse

249 She'd acted recklessly, unprofessionally. She would make certain that it never happened again.

privacy issues--dominant-culture Americans require a lot of private space

contrast traditional cultures, extended families, where people live constantly in each other's sight, touch

239 children followed her . . . watched her undress

240 Mom says you eat with us

241 closeness of people in a small space

241 He casually unzipped his fly and peed into the bucket, watching them at the table the whole time, as if he didn't want to miss anything

 

Notice how little attention the dominant culture draws to itself, even though it has a lot of power

plain clothing

professional behavior (i. e., not dramatic or emotional)

In contrast, minorities and other ethnic groups are often seen as "colorful," "exotic"

One reason we find it hard to talk about the dominant culture is that it doesn't draw attention to itself--but that can make it interesting, like a detective mystery . . . .

 

+ "plumbing" is near the top of the dominant culture's preferences

 

 

instructor's input:

rudeness but invulnerability of host at swimming pool

we admire the dad for keeping his composure and dignity

but the other man doesn't lose any status by losing his composure and dignity

dominant culture often remains separate, protected--and to some degree, immigrants don't mind!

 

The term “minority” is used loosely in popular speech and government. The label of a “Model Minority” is often applied to a new immigrant group that exemplifies or fulfills the ideals implicit in the immigrant narrative.

. . .

·        In terms of assimilation, such groups often assimilate economically and educationally while maintaining ethnic identity in religion and ethnic customs (which may contribute to family stability and low crime rates). This resistance to assimilation imitates a leading quality of the dominant culture (obj. 4).