Literatures of Hawai’i

Literatures of Hawai‘i


            In this course, we will be reading literatures written by a broad range of writers who focus on the importance of the languages, cultures, and knowledges that shape and are shaped by Hawai‘i as a place. We will first examine the ways that Kanaka ‘Ōiwi writers like Queen Lili‘uokalani trace their genealogies back to the kulāiwi, the ancestral lands, mapping through mo‘olelo, stories and histories, the literary and cultural significance of places that are a part of our daily lives. We start with the story of the overthrow to understand the political history of Hawaiʻi and its ongoing significance in the contemporary Hawaiian independence movement.  Later, many other narratives emerged from efforts in the 1970s to define a “local” identity in community struggles to protect leased agricultural lands slated for commercial and urban development.  Visual texts of local solidarity in newspapers show people linking their arms in a human blockade across Kamehameha Highway in front of the Waiāhole Poi Factory in protest against the police-enforced eviction of farmers. Throughout the course, we will sketch the literary, historical and political contexts that map our knowledge and reading of land and places in Hawai‘i. We will discuss the complexities of local communities, such as the survival strategies of a young local Filipino boy growing up gay and working-class in Kalihi and the ways that the ongoing Korean war shapes dreams and desires for local Korean families. As we learn from these stories, we will also be reading and learning from Hawaiian movements for life, land, and sovereignty that have impacted the lives of all people in Hawaiʻi.  We will conclude by following in the footsteps of Keaomelemele as she travels around the islands, mapping the stories and ʻŌiwi knowledges of different places in Hawai‘i.  We will conclude with Haunani-Kay Trask’s poetry to see how her fight for Hawaiian sovereignty is intimately tied to the practice of “breathing the akua.” Through the knowledge we gain from mapping these stories of places in Hawai‘i that continue to exist or are being restored, we will work toward envisioning a decolonial and more sustainable future for Hawai‘i.

This course fulfills the Hawaiʻi/Pacific Breadth of Field requirement for the English major.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) include an awareness of the contributions of the literatures of Hawaiʻi to the formation of the contemporary field of English Studies, including such subfields as twentieth-century American literature, indigenous literature, ethnic literatures, rhetoric, genre studies and cultural studies, written and oral ability to situate the study of these literatures within broader critical and historical conversations.



Requirements: Two 4-page papers, 6 1-page response papers, a final exam, attendance and participation.


Required Texts (available UH Bookstore)

1) Queen Lili‘uokalani, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen (1898)

2) Eric Chock, James R. Harstad, Darrell H. Y. Lum, and Bill Teter, eds. Growing Up

          Local: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose from Hawaiʻi (1998)

3) R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R’s (1995)

4) Joseph Han, Nuclear Family (2022)

5) Moses Manu, Keaomelemele, translated by Mary Kawena Pukui (out-of-print: copy

will be available on Laulima)

6) Haunani-Kay Trask, Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1993)

Additional course readings will be available on Laulima: