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the expanding canon teaching multicultural literature
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Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch Reader Response: Keith Gilyard and Mourning Dove Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya and James Baldwin Inquiry: Tomás Rivera and Esmeralda Santiago Cultural Studies: Ishmael Reed and Graciela Limón Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong Critical Pedagogy: Octavia E. Butler and Ruthanne Lum McCunn Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada
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Session 6 Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong - Authors and Literary Works

Author: N. Scott Momaday
Work: The Way to Rainy Mountain
Author: Russell Leong
Work: "Aerogrammes"

 

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N. Scott Momaday

Courtesy, University New Mexico Press
Navarre Scott Momaday (1934- ), a Native American of Kiowa and Cherokee descent, was raised in the American Southwest on various Native American reservations. His mother and father both worked as teachers in Native American schools, but they also pursued artistic interests: Momaday's mother was a writer, his father a painter.

Like his parents, Momaday has been both a teacher and writer. Since earning a bachelor's degree at the University of New Mexico, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Stanford, Momaday has held tenured appointments at the University of California, Berkeley; UC Santa Barbara; Stanford; and the University of Arizona. He has been honored for his poetry and prose with numerous awards: His debut novel, House Made of Dawn, was the first by a Native American author to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and the Premio Letterario Internationale Mondello, Italy's highest literary honor.

Momaday's work has greatly influenced other Native American authors, like Joy Harjo and Leslie Marmon Silko. In fact, the structure and content of Silko's Storyteller are in many ways similar to Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain, and her award-winning Ceremony was influenced by Momaday's House Made of Dawn. Momaday has also brought Native American literature into a conversation of sorts with other traditions. This is partially due to the fact that Momaday's work successfully combines various literary styles. His poetry, for example, often employs heroic couplets and blank verse. In this way, Momaday successfully celebrates traditional Native American culture without isolating it from multicultural America.

Despite his willingness to draw on European and European-American literary traditions, Momaday focuses his work on Native American culture. Interestingly, he only came to explore that culture as an adult. "When I was in my early 30s," Momaday once said, "I began to wonder about my heritage, which I had always taken for granted." Once Momaday began to investigate his heritage, it quickly became the central focus of both his writing and his scholarship. Perhaps more importantly, it seems to have become a personal mission for Momaday to keep Kiowa culture alive. "When I go and walk among the stones of Rainy Mountain cemetery, where my grandmother, in an unmarked grave, and my aunt, dead in infancy, are buried," he says, "I am conscious of something terribly important to my being. I could sense in that situation the vitality in myself; I could sense it but could not take possession of it until I translated it into language My poem 'Rainy Mountain Cemetery' is an act of understanding. Beyond that, there is no other way." Through his poetry and his innovative fiction and scholarship, Momaday has infused both Kiowa and American culture with life.

Works by the Author

top NextWork: The Way to Rainy Mountain


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