Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Ojibwa) (1800-1841)

    Contributing Editor: James W. Parins

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Establishing a framework for discussion helps in teaching Schoolcraft. The instructor needs to address the prehistoric nature of the original oral tales and aspects of the oral tradition itself, and, in addition, explain how the tales were enhanced stylistically and rhetorically once they were written down. The dual audiences (of the original tales and the written versions) need to be addressed as well.

    As a helpful teaching strategy, draw parallels with other oral tales, for example, Njal's Saga, Beowulf, and the Iliad. All these existed first in the oral tradition and were later written down. All included super- or preternatural elements.

    Students usually have questions on the differences in social values between the American Indian and "mainstream" cultures.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    Of particular importance are creation myths or stories that explain how things came to be.

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    Students can compare the author with others writing in the "standard" style of the time, Hawthorne and Irving, for example, particularly in their self-conscious use of terms like "legend."

    Original Audience

    Teachers need to address the preliterate society for which the tales were originally composed as well as the non-Indian audience Schoolcraft was writing for. Points to be made include the following: The style was embellished for the non-Indian audience; students should be directed to find examples. Schoolcraft's Romantic style differs from some other narratives, including slave narratives.

    Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections

    Oral texts from other traditions can be compared and contrasted. Cusick's work is especially helpful for comparison within the American Indian context.