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The Invention of the American Indian

The Invention of the American Indian

An introduction to the political and cultural invention of one of the United States' most enduring and pernicious myths, the 'American Indian'. This module will explore Native American history in the United States from the genocide of the 19th century to the representation and resistance of Native Americans in literature, art, film and television.

Who is this module open to?

Credit bearing:

Open to all intermediate level (second year) students at Warwick, with a priority given to History students.

Open to students from partner institutions.

  • HI2G9-15 - Intermediate, for 15 CATS credit in current year (2023/24)

Key dates

This module will take place 3-21 June 2024.

  • Prep week: 3-7 June 2024
  • Teaching: 10-21 June 2024
  • Final assessment deadline: 21 June 2024


No costs have been identified for this module.


This module will be taught at the Warwick campus, Coventry.

What's special about our modules?

This programme will challenge your thinking, develop your confidence and open up a world of new opportunities. You’ll consider new ideas, apply theory to real world issues working in teams and individually, and develop new networks, connections and friendships. This will provide you strong analytical and research methods skills which also enhance your employability profile for a globalised world of work, derived from a transformative blend of online learning and intercultural engagement.

Access to Intercultural Training will provide further enhancement of your skills.

The intensive nature of our programme lets you focus purely on your chosen modules.

You should expect around two weeks of daily face-to-face sessions (on location) and possibly one week of preparatory online activities. The aim is to work in groups consisting of incoming students (from partner institutions) and Warwick students during the module. Assessments will consist of a mix of group and individual activities.

There are no additional programme fees for Warwick students to take our modules.

Where will you be taught?

Our intensive modules are taught in various ways: mostly face-to-face (combing some online learning and face-to-face teaching). Modules will be based at Warwick central campus, or our overseas residentials will be based at selected European locations relevant to module content. Our modules are designed to be taught in an intensive way, combining physical teaching, and online activities.

All participants will be expected to attend all lectures and group work activities in real time; this might include some online activities in the prep week (where listed in Key dates). As modules are intensive there is not expected to be free time during the teaching period for you to undertake other activities; there will be limited time available during the teaching period to explore the surrounding area.

Students are responsible for checking their own visa requirements and all associated applications and costs.

For overseas modules students are responsible for identifying and booking their own accommodation.

For overseas modules students are responsible for identifying and booking their own accommodation.

Professor J.E. Smyth

J.E. Smyth is a historian, critic and Professor of History at the University of Warwick. She has written and edited several books, including a new edition of Jane Allen’s Hollywood novel I Lost My Girlish Laughter (2019), Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood (2018) and Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2014). In 2021, she was named an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Scholar for her biography of screenwriter Mary C. McCall Jr.

J.E. Smyth

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

An introduction to the political and cultural invention of one of the United States' most enduring and pernicious myths, the 'American Indian'. The module explores Native American history in the United States from the genocide of the 19th
century to the representation and resistance of Native Americans in literature, art, film and television.

Topics will include:

  • Segregation and state-sponsored violence
  • Censorship
  • Racial and gender stereotyping in history and fiction
  • Tourism and cultural appropriation
  • Contemporary exclusion from the culture industries
  • Native American resistance.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the course of Native American history and culture
  • Communicate ideas and findings, adapting to a range of situations, audiences and degrees of complexity
  • Generate ideas through the analysis of a broad range of primary source material
  • Analyse and evaluate the contributions made by existing scholarship about First Peoples
  • Act with limited supervision and direction within defined guidelines, accepting responsibility for achieving
  • To gain interpersonal and communication skills through the delivery of a presentation

Indicative reading list

  • Tomas Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines (1999) Ned Blackhawk, Rediscovery of America (2023)
  • Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970)
  • Willa Cather, The Professor's House (1925)
  • Stephen Cornell, The Return of the Native: American Indian Political Resurgence (1988)
  • Vine J. Deloria Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins (1969)
  • Vine J. Deloria Jr., Red Earth, White Lies (1995)
  • Dydia DeLyser, Ramona Memories (2005)
  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (2014)
  • Geronimo: My Story (1906)
  • Zane Grey, The Vanishing American (1925)
  • Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona (1885)
  • Benjamin Madley, An American Genocide (2016)
  • Elise Marubbio, Killing the Indian Maiden (2006)
  • Mari Sandoz, Cheyenne Autumn (1953)
  • Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)
  • Walter Benn Michaels, Our America: Nativism, Modernism, Pluralism (1995)
  • Sherry Smith, Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power (2014)
  • Luther Standing Bear, Land of the Spotted Eagle (1933)


Students are challenged to make connections outside of their main subject of study (History), particularly in the realm of literature, politics, film and media. The module's content crosses boundaries in history, literature, photography, film, television and media and is designed to develop students' comfort with researching and evaluating material along an array of academic disciplines. Dominant white male academic discourses are challenged by Native American voices, women and other ethnic minorities in the US. Learning to see from different perspectives is a core aspect of the interdisciplinary learning experience.


The module draws on cases from different contexts and different geopolitical areas, including Australia, Wales, Canada, France and Germany. The group assessment will bring a range of global and local perspectives to bear on the class work.

Transferable skills

  • Work effectively with others in groups
  • Manage time in projects
  • Develop strong analytical skills
  • Discover, evaluate and incorporate previous research at a level appropriate for a second-year module
  • Use a variety of skills and resources effectively in the preparation of class work
  • Hone analytical skills to explore research data on Indigenous media
  • Read academic work and literature effectively in the context of an intensive programme
  • Communicate clearly in class discussions
  • Write succinctly and with originality

Study time

Type Required
2 sessions of 1 hour (1%)
Seminars 4 sessions of 2 hours (5%)
Practical classes 3 sessions of 2 hours (4%)
Other activity

2 hours (1%)

  • Film Screening
Private study

88 hours (59%)

  • History modules require students to undertake independent reading and research to prepare for seminars and assessments. In general, students will be expected to read and prepare to comment in class on three substantial texts (articles or book chapters) for each seminar taking approximately 3 hours. Each assessment requires independent research, reading 7-10 texts, writing/presenting the results of this preparatory work in essays, reviews or presentations.
Assessment 44 hours (29%)
Total 150 hours


You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

  Weighting Study time

Group Presentation 1

(20 mins)

30% 11 hours

Source analysis of piece of historical criticism

Group Presentation 2

(20 mins)

30% 11 hours

Literary review

Group Presentation 3

(20 mins)


11 hours

Film Review

Seminar Contribution


11 hours

Contribution in learning activities (face-to-face or digital)

Feedback on assessment
  • Written feedback provided via Tabula; optional oral feedback in office hours
  • Peer feedback on presentations.

Before you apply

You can take a maximum of two WIISP modules, and cannot take them at the same time. This module runs at the same time as the following modules, so you cannot choose these as a second module:

The preparatory reading week for this module overlaps with the following modules:

Please note

  • Warwick students will need to check with their department before applying to take a WIISP module
  • Students from partner institutions will need to apply via their home institution
  • You are expected to fully engage and participate in the module, including in any group activities, if not your registration will be cancelled
  • Module details provided on these pages are supplementary to module details in the module catalogueLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window. Subsequently individual module pages (moodle/my.wbs) will provide live details
  • All modules require minimum numbers to run. This is set by each module leader.

How to apply

If you want to make an enquiry before applying, please contact the WIISP team at WIISP at warwick dot ac dot uk

Apply - Warwick students