20 Topics on Native American Literature for a Literary Analysis

Literary analysis assignments are designed to give you an in-depth view of a piece of writing and its writer’s motivation. Some instructors will give you specific aspects which you need to focus on.

However, if you have carte blanche, examine the literary elements of the text, formulate your central thesis, and then prove your idea by providing arguments/evidence from the text.

If your assignment involves studying Native American literature from a critical and analytic perspective, any of these topics will serve your purpose. Some of these are quite specific, so you can simply choose one, look up the appropriate sources listed at the end of this page, and get started. There are also some general topics in the following list. You can use these as a guide to think up your own specific topic.

  1. The Moral Lessons in Traditional Native American Trickster Tales
  2. How the Hero Archetypes of Oral Myths and Legends Have Shaped Native American Identity and Culture
  3. A Comparative Analysis of the Traditional Myths of the Wintu and Zuni Tribes
  4. The Symbolism of Spiritual Beings in Ojibway Legends
  5. Common Elements of Native American Creation Myths
  6. Alienation and Estrangement as Prevalent Themes in Contemporary Native American Literature
  7. An Exploration of the Major Themes in The Birchbark Series by Louise Erdrich
  8. Representations of Childhood in Traditional Native American Literature
  9. Folktales as Reflections of Ancient Native American Ethics
  10. Feminism in Contemporary Native American Literature
  11. The Challenges of Translating Traditional Native American Oral Story Performances for Modern Audiences
  12. Identity and Transition in John Rollin Ridge’s “The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit”
  13. Elements of Christianity in Native American Writings
  14. What a Man is and What He Says: An Analysis of N. Scott Momaday’s “The Man Made of Words”
  15. The Connection Between Tribal Literature and Current Societal Concerns of Native American People
  16. Thought Woman:The Concept of a Female Creator in Native American Literature
  17. Metaphysics and Symbolism in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Novel ‘Ceremony’
  18. Eco-Criticism: Lessons from Native American Literature
  19. Mythic Realism: A Unique Aspect of Traditional Native American Myths and Folktales
  20. The Notion of Time in Native American Narratives

These topics will help you write a piece your instructor will enjoy reading. If you want to come up with your own topic, be sure to check out our 14 facts on Native American literature for a literary analysis. Each of these facts can be transformed into a topic. They also come with references to source material which you can use to quickly finish your essay.

If you do not know yet how to come up with a Native American literary analysis, you can use our guide on how to write a literary analysis on Native American literature as well as the following essay example for guidance.

Sample Literary Analysis on Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony”

Native American cultures have a rich history of oral traditions which include myths, legends, folktales, chants, songs, and prayers. Stories are used to pass on knowledge and moral lessons. Since oral stories had to be memorized, they often included rhythmic and repetitive elements.

‘Ceremony’ has received critical acclaim as it was the first novel ever published in the US by a female Native American writer. As such, it occupies a prominent place amongst contemporary Native American literary works.

The Native American art of storytelling is a major theme in Silko’s novel “Ceremony”. The central plot focuses on the Native American struggle of trying to reconcile one’s identity with an external world that either distances itself from a person or threatens to swallow them whole. Storytelling is used in the novel as a way of reconnecting with one’s own cultural roots. Silko’s novel deals with this complex struggle in a touching way.

In “Ceremony”, traditional Pueblo stories are told in the form of poetry. These poems occupy an important place in the structure of the book. They are found both at the beginning and end of the book, and are also interspersed throughout the narrative because they serve as mileposts for what themes the plot will take on in later chapters.

Now storytelling in Native American culture is a way of strengthening communal bonds. The stories in “Ceremony” are used to make the protagonist realize that he is not alone in his struggles. As he re-enacts the stories, his perspective widens and he learns to let go of past traumas. Through the stories he discovers and readers skim through, he learns to reconnect with himself, his community and nature itself.

The elements of traditional tales show the closeness of human beings and nature. Native American religion and philosophy holds that nature and human beings are a continuum. In Western minds, the word nature conjures up an external, disconnected concept. From a Native American perspective, this disconnect does not exist.

The content of the stories that the protagonist is exposed to is also important. The stories feature traditional archetypes of heroes, struggle, and rekindling of hope. This is crucial in helping him come to the enlightening and freeing realization that he is not the only one who has faced immense struggles. Others have faced worse and have survived because of their will.

The central character uses storytelling to renew his faith in the old traditions. He realizes that even after destruction, the human spirit remains strong and looks with hope to a chance of renewal. Ancient traditions help the protagonist come to terms with his present crisis of identity.

The novel makes brilliant use of Native American myths and presents us with a captivating story about the importance of storytelling. The final message of the novel is delivered in a powerful manner when the protagonist learns the value of preserving traditions and bravery in the face of challenges.

You will definitely come up with a better essay for sure. So, give it your all and make sure that you do not start working on your assignment late next time.

References:
Tales of the North American Indians. (2016). Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 16 March 2016, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/tnai/
Thompson, S. (1966). Tales of the North American Indians. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Minderhout, D. Native Americans in the Susquehanna River Valley, past and present.
Ballinger, F. (2004). Living sideways. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Thompson, S. (1966). Tales of the North American Indians. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Legends And Stories. (2016). Manataka.org. Retrieved 17 March 2016, from http://www.manataka.org/legends.htmlLaPena, Frank R. 1978. “Wintu”, in California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 324–340.Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8.
Johnston, Basil. Tales the elders told : Ojibway legends. Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto: 1981)
Johnston, Basil. Ojibway heritage. Columbia University Press (New York: 1976)
Johnston, Basil. Ojibway ceremonies. McClelland and Stewart (Toronto: 1987)
Exploring U.S. History | native american creation stories. (2016). Chnm.gmu.edu. Retrieved 17 March 2016, from http://chnm.gmu.edu/exploring/pre_18thcentury/creationstories/pop_sioux.html

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