Here is my other new unit for today: Longfellow's Hiawatha. This poem is admittedly a very weird event in American literary history, but a very significant one. I like the idea that students, if they want, will be able to read some actual legends about Manabozho (available in the other reading units) and then to compare those legends with Longfellow's poem. Or not, as the case may be. By making it a choice, students can explore this famous (and infamous) appropriation of Native American storytelling, or they can instead just choose to read more Native American stories. With 16 different units to choose from over the two-week period, most of which are primary sources (although, by necessity, in English translation), I hope that I will be able to offer good learning opportunities for ALL the students, based on their own interests, backgrounds, and approaches. Speaking for myself, I am really glad to learn more about Hiawatha this way; I read the book as a child, completely clueless about what the poem really was; I was just enchanted by the meter as much as anything else. Now, decades later, getting to learn about Longfellow's sources, about Schoolcraft's role in all of this, etc. etc., is something I am excited about, and I think it makes a great jumping off point for some discussions about cultural appropriation, a very fitting topic for a course in mythology and folklore... esp. a course where the students are doing retellings as well, often about cultures that they are as little informed about as Longfellow was, truth be told, although for my students, it is all a part of the LEARNING process... with Longfellow, in contrast, the appropriation is much more fraught with pretension and peril.
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