American Literature class begins with a foundational focus on pre-colonized America, as sophomores study Native American culture through stories, poems, and speeches before learning about colonial literature of the pre-Revolutionary War period.
“We begin our study with Native American literature as they are the first Americans,” teacher Meg Carey said. “Particularly, we look at origin stories, and we are creating a graphic representation of the Iroquois people’s origin story. It’s the first stop on the question of identity, and the first stop on a journey that examines how the many cultures of America create the voices of our literature.”
In addition to the Iroquois creation story, students read, analyzed, and discussed speeches by Native American leaders such as Tecumseh and Metacom (a.k.a. King Philip), as well as trickster tales, folklore endemic to many Native American cultures.
As the course syllabus explains:
“Our literature reflects our society. A case can be made that American literature is as polymorphic as the population is multicultural. Americans’ roots are linked to other lands and cultures. These experiences, attitudes, and ideas go into the ever-changing definition of a national identity. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?
“This year we will read voices from different time periods, life experiences, cultures, races, and points of view who are all representative of ‘American Literature.’ …
“What’s the thread in this literature that we can trace across the centuries? What are the changes we can see developing over time? Do some ideas or values remain? The multiplicity of voices that contribute to American Literature also needs to be heard as singular voices. We will take time to study individual contributors and examine how they saw themselves in this stream, how others saw them, and how their place in American Literature may have changed over time.”