Literature of the Pacific

This course is an introductory survey of imaginative works from Oceania, mostly “literary” and written in English, from 1960 to the present. The emphasis will be on appreciating these works as at once, 1. attempts by individual authors to grapple with meaning and experience in specific time/places (as personal artistic creations), 2. articulations of social movements or collective aspirations (within national, pan-Pacific, and/or international frameworks), 3. instructive examples of an emergent regional aesthetic/ethics, whose writers share both socio-political concerns (anti-colonialial, ecological) and artistic/formal concerns, including those of perpetuating cultural values through a range of literary performance modes. We will consider both the historical contexts of production and distribution–how the literatures of the Pacific region (and Pacific diaspora) have emerged and circulated as something called “Pacific Literature in English”—along with the constructive roles that the created works can play in people’s lives. In formulating approaches to the readings, we will be guided by a number of essays/overviews/interviews on Oceanian literature and cultural production.

Reading for the course will include many of the following: prose by Sia Figiel (WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED), Patricia Grace (BABY NO-EYES), Epeli Hau’ofa (TALES OF THE TIKONG), Kerry Hulme (THE BONE PEOPLE), Piilani Kaluaikoolau (THE TRUE STORY OF KALUAIKOOLAU), Russell Soaba (MAIBA), Albert Wendt (LEAVES OF THE BANYAN TREE, VELA), Celestine Vaite (BREADFRUIT); poems by Joe Balaz, Emelihter Kihleng, Grace Molissa, Carlos Santos Perez, John Pule, Caroline Sinavaiana, Robert Sullivan, Teresia Teaiwa, Konai Thaman, Haunani-Kay Trask, Hone Tuwhare, Wayne Westlake, Steven Winduo; plays by Alani Apio, Vicky Kneubuhl (HE LEO HOU), John Kneubuhl, a film by Vili Hereniko (THE LAND HAS EYES), and critical essays.

Required work for the course will include regular postings to a class list on the reading, short reports (including an introduction to the class of an author not on our list), a midterm and a final, and two papers (3-4 pages). Students should come to class on the first day with the course reader, available at Campus Copy (at Campus Center). All other texts for the course will be available at Revolution Books.