Discourse & Semiotics Workshop - Frank Kelderman - Orality, Literacy, and Indigenous Childhood in Susette LaFlesche’s Magazine Writings

Please join the Discourse and Semiotics Workshop for a talk by Frank Kelderman, Assistant Professor of English.

Abstract: This paper examines the representation of childhood in the magazine writings of the Omaha writer and activist Susette LaFlesche (1854-1903). In the late 1870s and early 1880s, just as she became involved in prominent civil rights cases concerning Indian nations, LaFlesche authored several short pieces for national magazines of children’s literature, Wide Awake and St. Nicholas. In these writings, LaFlesche mobilizes narratives of childhood to interrogate questions of citizenship and race at a moment of increased attention to Indian reform. I examine how LaFlesche’s depiction of childhood literacy allows her to reclaim the figure of the Native American child as an agentic subject. As Patricia Crain argues in Reading Children, in the nineteenth century, children’s entry into reading and writing practices underwrote their entry into property relations and commodity culture, and literacy emerged as a potent symbol of children’s autonomy and agency. In this respect, LaFlesche’s representation of children’s reading and writing practices presents a literacy narrative that moves beyond the trope of children’s “assimilation” into settler regimes of knowledge and power. Rather, LaFlesche’s magazine writings used the figure of the American Indian child to contest the racial projects of indigenous dispossession as well as the progressive Indian reform movement, within a national culture of magazine publishing.

Friday, February 15 at 12:30pm to 12:00am

Stevenson Hall, 417
101 E. Centennial Walk , Louisville, Kentucky, 40208


Arts & Sciences, Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society, English

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Andrea Olinger

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