is literature? The formal definition of the word “literature” would have us
believe that literature is limited written works. This definition leaves no
space for literary knowledge contained in oral practices, which include
histories, stories, poems, epic sagas, songs, and the more contemporary
evolution of spoken word. The label of “literature” with a capital “L” also
insinuates a hierarchy that places written literature at the top of the ladder
of artistic merit with oral tradition falling somewhere below it.
In this class, we will be questioning this hierarchy and considering where oral
literatures might fit into our concepts of literary texts. We will be
focusing on material from the oral productions of four literary traditions,
which will be Hawai`i Aotearoa, Guahan, and the Philippines. We will be looking
at historical texts and contemporary spoken word performances and considering
how older concepts of orature relate to the spoken productions of today. Be prepared
to use your outside voice in this class, because we will be speaking out!