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Katie Cary

I am currently a doctoral student and English instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My scholarly interests are primarily focused on American Indian Literature, and as an instructor I take a decolonial approach to my teaching. 

Teaching & Research Interests

American Indian Literature; American Indian Studies; Transatlantic Romanticism; Nineteenth-Century British Literature; Nineteenth-Century American Literature; Women’s Literature; Ecocriticism

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, stories are sacred, powerful, and alive. They provide insight and guidance, work to keep cultural traditions alive, and are used as teaching tools to learn from past mistakes. The act of sharing a story is a sign of great respect. I have witnessed their power not only in literature, but firsthand in American Indian Studies courses and an immersion experience at the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest counties in the country and site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. During my undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I was introduced to American Indian literatures, histories, and contemporary issues and, after recognizing the importance of these issues and the need to spread awareness of American Indian cultures, decided to double-major in American Indian Studies and English Literature. A minor in Religious Studies sharpened my focus on culture and race.

My Master’s thesis, Blank Spaces and Palimpsest: Native Americans in Hemans’s “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England,” continued my focus on the misrepresentation of American Indians and their stories. I analyze the absence of an American Indian presence and lack of an American Indian story in Felicia Hemans’s poem, “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England,” uncovering their overlooked existence by closely analyzing lines of the poem as well as other poems by Hemans, William Cullen Bryant, and Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney. Although Hemans’s “Pilgrim Fathers” does not directly mention American Indians, they still have a significant presence within the poem. By examining historical tropes such as the “Vanishing Indian” and the romantic “Noble Savage,” along with using transatlantic romanticism’s approach, we are in a better position to understand Hemans’s poem and how she has preserved a common, stereotypical image of American Indians within it. Scholars tend to only discuss Hemans’s poems featuring American Indians, such as “Indian Woman’s Death-Song,” neglecting their almost invisible presence in “Pilgrim Fathers.” By neglecting “Pilgrim Fathers” in their criticism, scholars have only written about the ways in which Romantic poets actively utilized the “Vanishing Indian” trope; the inclusion of “Pilgrim Fathers” changes our understanding of nineteenth-century poetry by allowing us to see how Romantic poets passively included American Indians in their texts and purposefully overlooked the American Indian presence. While criticism about this poem is hard to find, my thesis contributes to the conversation by filling in the spaces, addressing what is being left unsaid, and examining the contemporary effects of these poems and their ideas while providing an explanation for how to properly teach and understand nineteenth-century poetry with American Indian themes. Romantic poets believed that American Indians were destined to vanish and become extinct, so it is crucial to understand that American Indian stories told by nineteenth-century poets are not their own indigenous stories and do not portray accurate depictions of their cultures. American Indians have fought against oppression and colonization by the Puritans in New England as well as in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but they have not vanished and are still fighting for their rights and for their own stories and voices to be heard in contemporary America.

Within American Indian communities, stories are viewed as sacred, and sharing a story is an act of respect. What happens, then, when we, as outsiders, tell American Indian stories incorrectly or choose not to tell them at all? When the media ignores American Indian issues and Romantic poets overlook colonization, is this silence a story?


Katie Cary

Department of English

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Office: Curtin Hall 286

3243 N. Downer Ave.

Milwaukee, WI 53211

(715) 215-2732

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