Loyola University Chicago

Department of English


Loyola's new professor of Indigenous Studies, Dr. Madeleine Reddon (12/5/2022)


Coming all the way from Vancouver, Dr. Madeleine Reddon is the English Department’s new professor of Indigenous literature. She took the post at Loyola because she feels like the university is well poised in the intellectual hub that is the city of Chicago and is a great place to be dialoguing with other universities around the city. 

She says that the department’s studies and research align with her own, citing the focus on modernist literature as one of her interests in being at Loyola. 

“As somebody working in Indigenous literature and modernism, I really felt that I would be able to be heard in a different way [at Loyola],” she says.

Dr. Reddon’s research concentrates on thinking about experimental Indigenous literature, how we can read said literature, and understanding that the tools for doing so are inherited from colonial institutions.

“The university has been a place in which knowledge has been produced in order to support certain power structures and hierarchies of being… So how do we even begin to read Indigenous literature in such a context? What are the decolonial tools that we have for reading Indigenous literature and hearing it on its own terms?” She says, “How do we use its insights to change the world for the better and think about what it actually means to read Indigenous literature on its own terms?” 

At Loyola, Dr. Reddon says she has begun talking about Indigenous literature and histories of colonization with a holistic approach. This, she says, will get students to think about their own lives, the histories they have inherited, and how they have the opportunity to change the world by addressing those histories. 

In the two classes she’s teaching this fall semester, Dr. Reddon introduced students to Indigenous literature by starting with more challenging historical material and is now delving into more contemporary literature, which she refers to as “the fun stuff.” 

 “I usually like to give students a lot of support to help them read the literature. I usually start with traditional stories from specific communities and I talk about how those stories are used in those communities and the purpose that they serve. ” She says, “Instead of thinking about the stories as merely didactic, only teaching one thing, we consider how those stories can be used to teach a variety of lessons about our obligations and responsibilities to the land. Those traditional stories and origin stories belong to philosophical systems from Indigenous cultures. So treating them like a form of philosophy that's asking questions about life is also teaching us something about how to read Indigenous literature through a different set of values. I find that students find Indigenous literature more approachable when they start to see how stories that seem really simple to them that at first might be really complex and when they understand that racialized communities have intellectual traditions of their own.” 

After starting her classes with those points in mind, Dr. Reddon gives her students more theoretical or scholarly articles to show them how specific Indigenous cultural traditions differ from Western traditions. A difference they’re currently studying in class is the one between treaties, by looking at how they are seen differently from an Indigenous perspective and from a settler perspective. In many cases, Indigenous people understand treaties as sacred agreements for maintaining ecological and political harmony whereas colonial perspectives tend to understand treaties as a means for acquiring land, economic growth, or subduing other peoples.

Reddon says that in order to start having conversations about decolonizing literature and changing the world through it, we really need to understand what's happening in the world and what has already happened. And she’s looking forward to doing so with the community at Loyola.