Intro to Lit: Culture & Lit

Indigenous (Anti)Heroes

What is a hero? Do you have one?

This course examines the “traditional” hero and turns it around. Instead of Achilles and Odysseus, we read about Kahalaopuna. We let go of Beowulf and even Dante because we look to Ti Pilo Simini, Laʻieikawai and Laʻielohelohe. In so changing the language of the European monomyth (hero’s journey), we open space to examine the construction and presentation of Indigenous (anti) heroes and their paths toward (away from?) heroism beyond the “traditional” lens.

We will investigate hero tropes: the nexus of the quest, the conflict(s) and climax(es), and the ways we frame our own ideas of “hero” through this type of story and type of agonist. However, we look through the Indigenous framework, through Indigenous ways of knowing and relationships to self through land and culture, and through Indigenous pairings of conflict and climax with tropes of magic, genealogy, shape-shifting, spirit-orienting, and modes of colonialism of Indigenous bodies and spaces. We articulate interventions in the monomyth by interrogating singular narratives through the rich voices of Indigenous stories, asking questions like What is a hero? What heroic deeds are being done? What is the hero’s journey, and what does this journey suggest about this community? What is our relationship to these heroes—are they heroes to us? Do these (anti) heroes exist within the European monomyth, or are they creating their own mythic adventure? What do Indigenous heroes tell us about ourselves?

Specific to this course are stories that are contemporary, stories that are recorded/transcribed original tales of creation and genealogy, and stories that represent and reprise Indigenous and Native ways of being through the making of heroes within culture.

As we investigate these heroes, we also question our relationship to a specific hero and will rely on these (anti) heroes to create a new image of hero and heroism in the final project.


Course texts may include some of the following:

Alexie, Sherman. Indian Killer

Grace, Patricia. Potiki

Davenport, Kiana. Shark Dialogues

Haleʻole, S.N. Laʻieikawai

Harjo, Joy. How We Became Human

Hauʻofa, Epeli.Tales of The Tikongs

Ihimaera, Witi. The Uncle’s Story

Kawaharada, Dennis. Ancient Oʻahu: Stories from Fornander & Thrum 

Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn

Robinson, Eden. Monkey Beach

Wendt, Albert. Sons for the Return Home


Tentative Assignments and Requirements: 

Reading Responses

Short Paper

Final Project