Seminar in Pacific Literatures

E771 Seminar in Pacific Literatures : Women Writing Oceania

Fall 2018

kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui

“It is with profound gratitude to our ancestors, atua and spiritual teachers that we have survived to (help) tell the tale.” —Caroline Sinavaiana and J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Women Writing Oceania (2008)

Across the oceanic Pacific, indigenous women have played important roles in movements for political sovereignty from colonial powers, personal autonomy for women’s rights, and have also been quite active in the production of literary arts. The intersection of the two is often seen in the central themes expressed in most indigenous women’s writing—issues of land, family, sexual and national/political oppression.

This course will explore major works of multi-genre Maoli (Indigenous) Pacific Women’s literature within historical and interpretive contexts. Texts will be primarily written in or translated into English. We will look at the transition from oral tradition to written literature, as well as the shift from indigenous languages to colonial ones (primarily English), paying attention to both the interplay between these factors. We will then turn to contemporary literature and examine how social/political history has shaped and influence these modern works, and how it is reflected in them as well. These texts will be multimedia and include poetry, drama, short stories, non-fiction, songs, chants, audio CD, and video/DVD.

Some questions we will examine include: What are common themes (are there?) in Pacific Maoli Women’s writing? What are the contributing factors to Maoli women focusing on these themes? Are they similar to or different from Maoli men’s writing? Indigenous women’s writing from other parts of the world? How does Maoli women’s writing differ from western, colonial, or “mainstream” women’s writing? How does Maoli women’s writing exemplify “feminism”? What is “mana wahine,” and how is it an expression of Maoli Pacific Women’s identity?

Student Learning Outcomes: Familiarize students with a range of literary work by Maoli women writers in the Pacific; read, analyze, and interpret these texts as cultural, political, and historical productions as well as literary texts; identify and apply indigenous and other critical theories to the reading of these texts; develop more complex understandings of the dynamics of cultural translation between the practices and aesthetic concerns of Pacific literature in conversation with other literatures.

Students are encouraged to discuss their own theoretical, critical, historical and cultural interests to the reading of these texts, although we will focus on how ethnicity, culture, politics and history have informed, influenced, and changed Pacific literary aesthetics and expression over time.

Course Requirements: weekly responses on Laulima to the assigned reading; lead discussion on a reading; one short paper, one longer, final project/paper, oral presentation on final paper.

Possible main texts (subject to change due to availability):

Avia, Tusiata, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

Figiel, Sia, Freelove

Gorode, Dewe, Kanak Apple Season

Grace, Patricia, Cousins

Kihleng, Emelihter, My Urohs

Vaite, Celestine, Breadfruit