Mele (Song) as Poetry, Poetry as Mele—Exploring Kanaka Maoli
(Native Hawaiian) Mele from Past to Present
course introduces students to key elements of studying poetry by focusing on
Hawaiian mele (song) written in Hawaiian (with translation) and/or English. We
will learn and utilize key terms for the study of poetry (figurative language,
imagery, lyric, rhyme scheme, free verse, etc.) as well as consider questions
of cultural, historical, social and political contexts and meaning.
with other cultural influences (Pacific, Caribbean, African and Native
American), particularly in the areas of themes and genres will be discussed. Performative
elements of mele, and the related genre of slam poetry will also be considered.
A range of mele as poetic texts will be covered, from key examples of ancient
chant to contemporary hip hop and reggae-inspired mele by current writers.
Because mele are meant to be performed and not just read, a range of multimedia
formats (phonograph, CD, DVD, YouTube) will be utilized. Students will be
encouraged to bring their own mele examples to class. At least one out of class
“fieldtrip” to a performance of mele will be required.
prior knowledge of Hawaiian language or culture is required, although students
with such backgrounds are encouraged to utilize their skills and knowledge
throughout the course in class discussions, course papers, and other assignments.
Course Requirements: Class
participation through regular attendance and in-class discussions, Laulima
discussion board and blog posts, possible fieldtrip, oral presentations and
group work on assigned mele or theme chosen in consultation with the
professor. Three formal papers, and a
research-based project. Library research required. You will “experience art” by attending at
least one literary, musical, cultural, or community event during the semester, and
write a reaction/review of that experience.
Finally, there will be regular quizzes, a mid-term and a final
exam. The exams will be mixed format and
are not cumulative.
Course Texts: Course reader;
additional readings and/or web links will be posted under “Resources” on