Brian Gillis


brian for website

Mailing Address: 
1186-6135 University Ave Halifax, NS B3H 4P9
Research Topics:
  • Indigenous literature
  • American literature
  • Native American languages
  • Literary translation studies
  • Language studies
  • Sound studies
  • Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ) language studies
  • Transnational and transindigenous studies


I teach Indigenous and American Literature, and conducted my doctoral research in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where I focused on Native American languages and literatures and multicultural American literatures from the early nineteenth century onward. I am an experienced teacher and researcher of literary translation studies, Native North American and Indigenous Literatures, Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ) language studies, Sound Studies, and transnational and transindigenous studies.

My current book project, “Native Tongues: Red English, Translation, and the Transnational in American Indian Literature,” launches a history and theory of Red English, or “Indi’n Talk,” a dialect widely spoken across Native North America, and inextricably connected to notions of tribal identity, community, and authenticity. My project expands the definition of Red English, from its origins in colonial “salvage” anthropology which dismissed “Indi’n Talk” as “fractured” or “broken English,” to a more comprehensive literary and locutionary category which includes dialect speech, translation, and demonstrations of English literacy and mastery. In reading Red English in a framework attentive to the poetic and hybrid elements of translation I reveal the complex narrative strategies that enabled American Indian writers of the nineteenth century to realize the practical power of making their words and their sense of indigeneity heard. By using experimental literary tactics like code-switching and translanguaging, the first generation of American Indian writers spoke to multiple audiences at once. Focusing each chapter on a particular author’s engagement with Red English, I trace the ways in which the figure of the "Indian writer" is recast simultaneously as translator, interpreter, and cultural informant, categories that are necessarily linked but also distinctive in their narratological deployments.

Selected Conference Talks and Publications

"Drawing Diversity: Identity, Organizing, and Imagining in Comics and Graphic Novels” Faculty Roundtable: Approaches to Teaching and Researching the Indigenous Graphic Novel, University of California, Santa Barbara, January 2020

“Sounding Fathoms.” The Lamp Journal. 10th Vol. 2020. (forthcoming)

“No Language But Her Own”: Trans(p)la(n)ting Red English in the Writings of Zitkala-Ša,” The Futures of American Studies Institute, Dartmouth College Roundtable, 2017-2018

“Red English.”  American Indian Issues Today. Ed. Russell M. Lawson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2015 pp. 180-186.

“Words as Monuments along the Way”: Memory and Monument in Simon Pokagon’s Queen of the Woods, or O-gî-mäw-kwě mit-i-gwä-kî, Modern Language Association panel on “Native Literary Chicago,” Chicago, Ill. September 2015

“How Does One Seek the Words?”: Textual Recursions and Suspended Translations in Zitkala-Ša’s American Indian Stories.” Pacific Modern Language Association, University of California, San Diego, November 2013

“The Little Book of Memoirs”: Authentic Aurality and Textual Assimilation in D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded, The 27th Annual Berkeley-Stanford Conference, March 2012

Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity.” Andrew H. Fisher. Review. Vol. 102.2. pp. 94-5. 2012. Pacific Northwest Quarterly.

A Key into the Language of America: Sounding Out the Trans-indigenous in Roger Williams’ Red English” John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, July 2011

“Translating Grounds: Interpreting the Interpreters in Colonial Native America” Pacific Modern Language Association, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, November 2010