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Louise Erdrich
Personal Life
• Born 1954 to German-American father and
French-American / Ojibwe mother
• Raised on reservation – Parents ...
Personal Life (cont.)
• “Author of thirteen novels as well as volumes
of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a
me...
Personal Life (cont.)
• Was married to Michael Dorris, a contributor
and fellow scholar of Native American Studies,
who co...
Love Medicine
• The Red Convertible is a selection from her book
Love Medicine, which won the 1984 Book Critics
Circle Awa...
Love Medicine
• Love Medicine is a novel comprised of 18 chapters of
short stories which revisit characters presented in
o...
The Red Convertible
Themes to consider:
- WAR, ways in which war changes people, Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Family ...
“Dear John Wayne”
• Poem is constructed as a sort of letter to John Wayne.
Epistolary form is complicated and deconstructe...
“Dear John Wayne”
• Alternate ending to the poem, also regularly anthologized:
(I’ve not been able to discover which is th...
See Also
• Faces of America: Interview with Louise
Erdrich (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
• Part 1: https://www.youtube.com...
Questions to Consider
• Follow the red convertible and discuss its evolution throughout and
relevance to the work. Conside...
Questions to Consider
•

The title of Louise Erdrich’s poem “Dear John Wayne,” brings to mind an epistolary form
– one in ...
Works Cited
• Erdrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible." Growing Up Ethnic in America:
Contemporary Fiction About Learning to...
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Transcript of "Louise erdrich presentation"

  1. 1. Louise Erdrich
  2. 2. Personal Life • Born 1954 to German-American father and French-American / Ojibwe mother • Raised on reservation – Parents were teachers at an Indian Boarding School run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Remember poem from week 5 – “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways.” • Member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Indians
  3. 3. Personal Life (cont.) • “Author of thirteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood” (Harper Collins Website) http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/2905/ Louise_Erdrich/index.aspx • Owner of Birchbark Books, small independent bookstore in Minneapolis: http://birchbarkbooks.com/
  4. 4. Personal Life (cont.) • Was married to Michael Dorris, a contributor and fellow scholar of Native American Studies, who committed suicide in 1997. • Mother of 7 children (three adopted)
  5. 5. Love Medicine • The Red Convertible is a selection from her book Love Medicine, which won the 1984 Book Critics Circle Award. • The Red Convertible tells the tale of two brothers, one of whom goes to fight in the war in Vietnam and returns a changed man. The convertible of the title is a possession that they share, and a central thematic element and metaphor around which the events of the story rotate.
  6. 6. Love Medicine • Love Medicine is a novel comprised of 18 chapters of short stories which revisit characters presented in other chapters. Employs a multi-vocal narrative style, presenting at times the same stories from different angles and personal viewpoints. • The story of the red convertible, in fact, and of Henry’s death, is told in three different versions throughout the book. The versions are contradictory in some ways and also revelatory in understanding the ways in which different people view the occurrence (Reid 72).
  7. 7. The Red Convertible Themes to consider: - WAR, ways in which war changes people, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. - Family relationships, brotherhood, empathy.
  8. 8. “Dear John Wayne” • Poem is constructed as a sort of letter to John Wayne. Epistolary form is complicated and deconstructed through the use of imagined responses by Wayne and speaker’s dialogue with him, generally rendered in italics. • Use of sometimes vague/ambiguous pronouns. • Connection made between physical colonization/conquest and cultural colonization/conquest. • Other themes: Violence, alcohol, subtext, to name but a few.
  9. 9. “Dear John Wayne” • Alternate ending to the poem, also regularly anthologized: (I’ve not been able to discover which is the earlier version) “How can we help but keep hearing his voice, the flip side of the sound track, still playing: Come on, boys, we got them where we want them, drunk, running. They'll give us what we want, what we need. Even his disease was the idea of taking everything. Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.”  Seems to change meaning of poem quite a bit, even harsher in this version than in the one that we have read. (There are also some other, less significant changes to the poem, which can be read in full here: http://iron.lmc.gatech.edu/~ntrivedi6/blog/?p=1545)
  10. 10. See Also • Faces of America: Interview with Louise Erdrich (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) • Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0oIQQhLZWc • Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd_gA8V9_sA • Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoXAAupSPwE
  11. 11. Questions to Consider • Follow the red convertible and discuss its evolution throughout and relevance to the work. Consider how it is purchased, used, broken, fixed, and ultimately “drowned.” • Louise Erdrich’s work often revolves around Native American themes and characters. As Lissa Scheider points out, however, Erdrich sees the novel Love Medicine “in terms of its articulation of ‘the universal human struggle’” (2). Discuss the ways in which this story is indicative of a Native-American cultural viewpoint and ways in which it is universal. • Discuss the ending of the story and analyze the symbolism of the Henry’s death, the red convertible’s destruction, Henry’s last words, his final actions before entering the water, etc. Consider whether or not Henry has committed suicide.
  12. 12. Questions to Consider • The title of Louise Erdrich’s poem “Dear John Wayne,” brings to mind an epistolary form – one in which the narrator is writing a letter to John Wayne. This form is complicated, however, by the use of italicized text (often representing the words of Wayne, though not always) as well as a changes in subject and ambiguous subject pronouns. How does this disjunctive form work and how is it connected to the poem’s meaning(s) as a whole? • Considering that this poem makes a connection between the original conquest of the Native Americans by white settlers and the continued cultural conquest of Native Americans through film, analyze the following stanza of the poem in the context of the poem as a whole: The drum breaks. There will be no parlance. Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves swarming down on the settlers who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds into the history that brought us all here together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.
  13. 13. Works Cited • Erdrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible." Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American. Ed. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Press, 1999. 103-114. Print. • Erdrich, Louise. “Dear John Wayne.” Unsettling America. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Books. 1994. 54-55. Print. • Reid, E. Shelley. The Stories We Tell: Louise Erdrich’s Identity Narratives. MELUS, Vol. 25, No. 3/4, Revising Traditions Double Issue (Autumn-Winter, 2000), pp. 65-86 • Schneider, Lissa. Love medicine: a metaphor for forgiveness. Studies in American Indian Literatures, Series 2, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 1992), pp. 1-13. University of Nebraska Press
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