- Until 10 July 2020
- Paul Mellon Centre
The very first Bible printed in North America was printed in the Indigenous Massachusett language in 1663. The following year, a unique display copy was offered to King Charles II, as a symbol of the purportedly successful conversion and assimilation of Indigenous peoples into the colonial project. The Bible and, by extension, the “book” more broadly considered, has been used as a vessel for the production of knowledge and the consolidation of imperial power. Books were written to justify illegal theft, attempt cultural assimilation and extermination, and systematically disparage Native peoples. Despite and indeed because of literary technology’s deep entanglements in the colonial project, since 1663 individuals from Native communities across the continent have manipulated written forms in order to resist colonial logics, correct racist portraitures, and commit their narratives to lasting record.
This course is designed as a broad survey of Native North American literature from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries, literature written specifically for an international audience. Though London might seem an unlikely place to think about Indigenous literary history, Indigenous peoples actively engaged in global politics within this urban centre, structuring what Cherokee scholar Jace Weaver has called the “Red Atlantic.” During our semester we will travel to sites of Indigenous performance, view important Native-authored texts in the British Library, and view representations of Indigenous diplomats at the British Museum. Borrowing Coll Thrush's organizing term, “Indigenous London,” we'll ask how to read Native and Indigenous texts from within the heart of empire.