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English 004 (Tenn)--Love Medicine: Assignment




Using the evidence in the book, your own experience if relevant, and the writings of others, address one of the topics below in a paper of 2400 words minimum (about 8 pages): 

  1. What does the novel show us about problems currently afflicting many Native Americans such as poverty, domestic violence, or alcoholism? You might link this to historic and contemporary U.S. Indian policy, or suggest how contemporary struggles are linked to historical trauma.
  1. What does this book show about the challenges faced by native people who try to maintain connections to ancestral land, family, and community on a reservation while also assimilating to contemporary American life and reaching for American-style success?
  1. How does this novel both acknowledge and subvert popular beliefs or stereotypes about Native Americans?
  1. How do the women in this novel struggle in different ways than the men? What does the book point to as the vulnerabilities and strengths of native women either in tribal society or larger American society?  
  1. Where do you see Catholicism and traditional Ojibwe practices in the book, and how are the book’s characters impacted by both spiritual traditions? How or why is faith or religion complicated for the characters in this text and many native people?
  1. Got an idea for a different topic? Share it with me, get my approval, and get writing!

Critical approaches implicit in the questions above:

  • Formalism/New Critical approach:  focus on formal aspects of a text (e.g. characters)
  • Post-Colonial Criticism: what the text shows us about colonization and its effects
  • Feminist Criticism/Gender Studies Approach: focus on what the text shows about patriarchy or the different experiences of men and women.

    Once you’ve decided on your question and done some brainstorming, you’ll want to go back through Love Medicine (your primary source) to find material from multiple chapters that relates to your question, and also start searching for additional quality secondary sources on your topic. Spend time coming up with good search terms. For academic research, books and documentary films are valuable, as are published articles from journals, magazines and newspapers that you’ll find in library databases. Websites are more risky, but possible if you evaluate them carefully.


You’ll turn in to me your brainstorming, list of quotes from the book, and the secondary sources you’ve found, with a note on what you hope to learn from each source.Then it will be time to read and annotate. You’ll want to collect quotes and information from secondary sources that you can connect to your primary source, until you come to a sense of what you want to present back to your reader. That’s right:  You won’t know your thesis until you’ve done a fair amount of research. Your thesis will come from your close reading and research, and therefore be supported by your close reading and research.

Minimum Requirements:

  • 2400 words (no filler)
  • College-level literary analysis of Love Medicine (requires close reading, not summary)
  • At least 4 additional QUALITY sources appropriate for an academic paper, and used in depth:  NO Wikipedia or iffy websites; at least 2 of the sources must come from sources accessed through library databases
  • Clear essay organization
  • Good proofreading


  • Minimum of TWO typed pages of pre-writing/brainstorming with quotes from your book PLUS an annotated MLA style Works Cited list of at least four secondary sources:  4/24
  • Rough draft due for peer review: 5/10
  • Final draft due:  5/17


  • To avoid getting overwhelmed, start early, and go step by step.
  • Come to office hours or ask for Victoria’s help at any stage of your writing process.
  • Chabot librarians are immensely knowledgeable and helpful.
  • Purdue OWL has great information about research and MLA: