Michael T. Oishi
Prose fiction, historical narratives, and poetry (including lyrics and songs) of Hawaii by Native Hawaiian and multicultural local writers and composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Analyses of colonization and its consequences frame the literary studies.
For Spring 2008: In an introduction to the first, and one of the most popular, anthologies of Hawai‘i’s literatures, celebrated writer James Michener remarked that not only were Native Hawaiian voices “alien,” but also that Hawai‘i’s people who are “Oriental in ancestry,” “having arrived in the islands as laboring peasants . . . did not produce a literature of their own” (A Hawaiian Reader xiv). As bizarre and inaccurate as they are, Michener’s comments serve as an important reminder of the myriad and intractable misconceptions that still surround Hawai‘i’s histories, people, and literatures. Indirectly, then, this course seeks to challenge and debunk Michener’s thesis as it examines the oral and written literary traditions of Hawai‘i from the ancient “precolonial” period to the “postcolonial” present. We begin by exploring oral narratives of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) writers whose mele (chants and songs) and mo‘olelo (hi/stories) both narrate Native Hawaiians’ historical connection to the land and influence much indigenous prose and poetry in the islands today. From there we turn to consider the work of various non-indigenous or “settler” writers who are not Hawaiian by blood but who nonetheless claim Hawai‘i as a home. Rather than offering a comprehensive survey of Hawai‘i’s literatures, this course seeks to provide frameworks for understanding, analyzing, and interpreting the diverse literary works of Hawai‘i by placing them within historical, cultural, and political contexts of western imperial expansion, globalization, and Native Hawaiian sovereignty movements toward autonomy and self-determination—contexts that will help us better understand the complicated and inextricable relationship between Hawai‘i’s literatures and the social conditions of their production and reception.
Texts for this course will include: Lee Cataluna’s Folks You Meet in Longs and Other Stories, Pi‘ilani Kaluaiko‘olau’s The True Story of Kaluaikoolau (As Told by his Wife Piilani), Lisa Linn Kanae’s Sista Tongue, Lili‘uokalani’s Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, R. Zamora Linmark’s Rolling the R’s, Milton Murayama’s All I Asking for Is My Body, ‘Ôiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, Gary Pak’s The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Blu’s Hanging, and a photocopied coursepack.
Student learning goals
• Improve your ability to read, analyze, and discuss literature.
• Further develop your writing skills, especially your ability to state your ideas in a succinct, coherent manner and support them with close textual readings.
• Understand the broader historical, cultural, political, and social contexts out of which the literatures of Hawai‘i have evolved.
• Enhance your sense of the ways in which writing can work as a tool for social change.
General method of instruction
A combination of lecture, vociferous class discussion, small group work, and occasional student-led presentations.
As this is an upper-division literature course, students should expect a challenging reading and writing load. Further, students are expected to attend class faithfully and to come ready to discuss the day’s assigned readings.
Class assignments and grading