Seminar in Hawaiian Literature

English 773:1 Seminar in Hawaiian Literature

Thursday, 6:30-9:00 p.m.      

Craig Howes

Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) Non-Fiction Writing

Any accurate history of Hawaiʻi records that over the course of the nineteenth century, Kānaka Maoli swiftly became readers, writers, editors, and publishers of a wide range of literary and historical genres in the Hawaiian language; that the events surrounding the overthrow and illegal occupation of Hawaiʻi also led to a virtual collapse of Hawaiian language publication in the first quarter of the 20th century; that a substantial industry arising at that time devoted to translating certain Hawaiian language texts was accompanied by Kānaka Maoli writing and publishing texts in English; and that beginning in the 1970s and continuing on today, a remarkable resurgence of Kānaka Maoli writing and translating in English and Hawaiian has taken place.

This course will map out this legacy by examining a series of texts that from a Western perspective could be labeled as Non-Fiction. Many take the forms of life writing—autobiography, biography, memoir, journal excerpts, travel writing, interviews, testimonies, essays, audio recordings, and documentaries primarily written in or translated into English. Others are more conventionally historical in nature. But the course will also familiarize participants with the generic terms that the writers themselves might use for their work–moʻolelo (history), moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy), mele inoa (name songs), kanikau (laments), kaʻao (legendary/historical/exemplary tales) and connection to wahi pana (storied places).

Student Learning Outcomes

Five of the course’s main goals are to provide students with a structured introduction to a sizable number of very important Kanaka maoli non-fiction texts; to familiarize students with the history of the production of these texts in light of Hawaiian history over the past two hundred years; to place these texts within some of the relevant theoretical and critical discussions of Indigenous literary and cultural production; to provide a framework for developing bibliographies for area or comprehensive graduate examinations; and to suggest possible subjects for MA projects and theses, and for Ph.D. dissertations, in English and in other related fields.

The SLOs from the Graduate Curriculum Maps will include

Ability to account for continuing relevance of earlier cultural formations and literary and rhetorical practices

Awareness of the contributions of Oceanic and/or Asian cultures to the formation of the field of English Studies in the 21st Century

Understanding of advanced research methods and/or creative techniques

Independent research (using primary and secondary sources) and/or creative skills


Weekly postings on upcoming readings; an earlier short paper; two class presentations on texts; oral presentation on, and revision and completion of a final research project; class participation; regular (weekly) attendance. Students with sufficient proficiency in Hawaiian will be encouraged to integrate their work with the massive archive of Hawaiian language resources. 

Required Texts

Earlier texts will be linked to more recent critical and theoretical texts that depart from, elaborate upon, explain, or take their inspiration from the earlier texts. When possible, the authors and/or editors of the more recent texts will visit the class.

A. Samuel M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs / Ke Kumu Aupuni (restoration of original contents),

Puakea Nogelmeier Mai Paʻa i ka Leo, Historical Voice in Hawaiian Primary Materials.

B. ‘Ī‘ī, John Papa. Fragments of Hawaiian History

Marie Alohalani Brown, Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa ʻĪʻī

C. Liliʻuokalani. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen

Sydney ʻIaukea, The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawaiʻi 

    D. Sheldon/Nogelmeier, The Biography of Joseph Kahoʻoluhi Nāwahī

         Biography Hawaiʻi: Joseph Nāwahī (television documentary)

E. John Dominis Holt, On Being Hawaiian, and Recollections

Brandy McDougall, Finding Meaning: Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature

F. Victoria Kneubuhl, Hawaiʻi Nei: Island PlaysConversion of Kaʻahumanu and Ola Nā Iwi

G. Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter

Noelani Goodyear Kaʻōpua, et. al. eds. Nation Rising: Hawaiian Movements for Life, Land and Sovereignty

H. Noenoe Silva, The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History

kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui, Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hiʻiaka

I. Daniel Heath Justice, Why Indigenous Literatures Matter

Noelani Arista, Daniel Heath Justice, and Alice Te Punga Somerville, eds. “Indigenous Conversations about Biography” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly