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Study Questions

  • 1. Which elements of the Pocahontas narrative make it so useful in the context of constructing a meaningful beginning/a foundational myth?
  • 2. What relevance does the category of gender carry in the early colonial encounters and how does Pocahontas figure in these relations?
  • 3. What can we say about the selection processes that had the ‘rescue scene,’ Pocahontas’s conversion, and/or her marriage to John Rolfe appear at various instances of historical commemoration? What would you consider the most important image of Pocahontas, i.e. the most important part of the Pocahontas narrative for the construction of a national beginning?
  • 4. Recapitulate the different ideological investments and strategies with which the Pocahontas narrative has been appropriated throughout the centuries by Southerners, feminists, etc. How do these appropriations reflect on images of American identity?
  • 5. Analyze the lyrics in the songs by Neil Young (“Pocahontas”) and Peggy Lee (“Fever”).
  • 6. Analyze the visual representation of the myth in Walt Disney’s Pocahontas and Terence Malick’s The New World. Which similarities and differences do you detect?
  • 7. Consider and discuss the narrative and visual aspects of Pocahontas as the heroine of children’s books, for instance by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (Pocahontas, 1946); Clyde Robert Bulla and Peter Burchard (Pocahontas and the Strangers, 1971), and Joseph Bruchac (Pocahontas, 2003).
  • 8. The trope of the “Indian princess” is most prominently connected to Pocahontas, yet, there are also other indigenous female figures who have played similar roles. Investigate the figure of Sacagawea in US cultural history, memorial culture, and filmic representations (e.g. in The Far Horizons, 1955).
  • 9. Compare representations of Pocahontas and Malinche in terms of their symbolic ‘careers.’ Which differences and similarities can you find?
  • 10. How does Arno Schmidt’s 1953 novel Seelandschaft mit Pocahontas relate to the American myth?
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