SemLitsHI: HAWN Folklore, Myth, Lit (CSAP/LSE/AP)

The boy stared southward, straight out to
sea. He watched as the few lingering clouds gradually changed from dusty
grayish to deep purple, heralding the approaching sun still embedded below the
horizon. He wished for a sign, one that told him what to look forward to.
Closing his eyes and praying really hard he heard his grandmother’s voice
chanting in the distance—

Pā mai ē, pā
mai ē,
winds of Hilo blow forth,

ka makani o Hilo,
mai ē!
           blow forth

Waiho aku ka ipu ʻiki,                     Leave
the little gourd,
hō mai ka ipu nui,                           large [wind] gourd

Ka makani o
Hilo, pā mai ē!           The
winds of Hilo blow this way!

Kaopio, Up Among the Stars (2012)


relationship between folklore and literature, described by some as interwoven,
and by others as “rival siblings” (Rosenberg 1991), has long been studied by
both folklorists and literary scholars. 
As Hawaiian literature develops as an emergent genre of Pacific and
Indigenous literature, a central question explored in this course is: How
does traditional folklore and mythology
influence, inform, and intersect with contemporary Hawaiian literature?

This course
explores the intersection between contemporary fiction, poetry, drama, and
film, primarily by Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) writers and artists, and
traditional Hawaiian folklore, mythology, and traditional orature and
literature. Texts will be primarily written in or translated into English. In
part, we will examine how colonial resistance surfaced in Hawaiian literary art
forms, especially through the traditional genres of poetry (through chant,
song, and genealogy), moʻolelo or hi/story (oral and written) and dance
(choreographed poetry, or poetry in motion) prior to foreign interference, and
how that changed with the introduction of western forms of literacy (i.e.
reading and writing) in the 1820s-1830s. 
We will look at the transition from oral tradition to written
literature, as well as the shift from Hawaiian language to English, paying
attention to both the interplay between these factors, and how western
influence has changed Hawaiian literary expression.  We will also study major and traditional
genres such as wahi pana (celebrated places), themes, such as pono (justice),
kuleana (responsibility and consequences), mālama ʻāina (importance of land),
and aloha no nā aliʻi (cherishing of the chiefs), and forms, such as
moʻokūʻauhau and koʻihonua (genealogies). 
In addition, we will discuss how Hawaiian literature formed, and how it
has changed over time.

The goals of the
course include (1) acquainting students with a substantial range of literary
and multimedia texts that draw from traditional folklore, mythology and
orature; (2) identifying and applying indigenous theories and emergent
narratives of critical discourse in reading and interpreting these texts; (3)
developing more complex understandings of the dynamics of cultural translation
between the practices and aesthetic concerns of traditional forms of oral and
written expression and those of contemporary western-based or
western-influenced literature and other media.

questions considered in this course include—

  • What role do oral forms of performative modes of
    expression (storytelling, folklore, mythology, dance, and chant) play in
    the formation of contemporary genres of literature and visual media?
  • How are traditional aesthetics of orature, which
    emphasizes performance, memory, communal ethos, and to a degree,
    improvisation, translated into written literature?
  • How do we approach literature that has been doubly
    translated, that is, transformed from an oral to a written (Hawaiian) one,
    then translated again from one language (and one genre of writing) to
    another (English, western genres such as the novel, epic, poem, and
  • What are some likely criteria, aesthetic and otherwise,
    for critical and/or theoretical frameworks of Hawaiian literary arts?

Methods and Procedures

In addition to
reading, viewing, and discussing the primary texts, we will also consider
recent research pointing to parallel concerns with those of other indigenous
writers comparative development and perspectives such as other Oceanic and
Native American literatures.  While the
focus of study and discussion will revolve around the primary texts by Kanaka
Maoli writers, we will also look at selected critical work in order to compare
and understand similar processes underway in the cultural translation of
emerging literatures in other parts of Oceania and North America.

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
Hawaiian literary aesthetics and expression over time.

Probable primary texts:

  • Altiery, Mason. The
    Last Village in Kona.
    Honolulu: Topgallant, 1986.
  • Hoʻoulumāhiehie. 
    The Epic of
    edited by Puakea Nogelmeier.  Honolulu: Awaiaulu Press, 2007.
  • Kaopio, Matthew. 
    Up Among the Stars.
    Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2011.
  • Kame‘eleihiwa, Lilikala, trans. A
    Legendary Tradition of Kamapua‘a, the Hawaiian Pig God
    , 1996.
  • Manu, Moses. Keaomelemele. trans. & ed. Puakea Nogelmeier. Honolulu:
    Bishop Museum Press, 2000.
  • Manu, Moses. A Legend of the Epic Battle between Pele of the Eternal Raging
    Fires and Waka of the Shadowy Waters.
    trans. & ed. kuʻualoha
    hoʻomanawanui (forthcoming).
  • Nakuina, Moses. The
    Wind Gourd of Laʻamaomao,
    trans. Sarah Nakoa and Esther Mookini.
    Honolulu: Kalamakū Press, 1990.
  • Perez-Wendt, Māhealani. 
    Uluhaimālama.  Honolulu: Kuleana ʻŌiwi Press, 2008.
  • Trask, Haunani. Night
    is a Sharkskin Drum.
    Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2002.

critical texts may include: Bacchilega, Legendary
Silva, Aloha Betrayed,
Womack, Red on Red, Justice, Our Fire Survives the Storm, Sarris, Keeping Slug Woman Alive,  The Native Critics Collective, Reasoning Together, Nogelmeier, Mai Paʻa i ka Leo, and/or Warrior et.
al. American Indian Literary Nationalism.  Other critical texts students should be
familiar with include Larry Kimura’s “Native Hawaiian Culture” Native Hawaiian Study Commission Report,
Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Decolonizing the Mind
and Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing


Additional readings: will be posted as pdf files on the class
webpage on Laulima.

Course Requirements:

1. Weekly online
discussions: Students will pose critical questions and responses to an assigned
primary and/or critical reading, and respond to at least one classmate’s post.

2.  Lead
class discussion on a text:  Students will work in small groups (2-3) and
lead a class discussion on a primary text, posing critical questions and
applying critical readings. Each group will also prepare a 1-2 page handout to
be distributed in class to accompany their presentation; a power point
presentation is optional.

3. A short paper
(7-10 pages) with a research component focusing on a specific element of
Hawaiian folklore, mythology, or literature.

4. A final project,
such as a critical essay/literary analysis that includes original research/
fieldwork on an aspect of Hawaiian folklore, mythology, and literature. It
should include at least one primary text from the course, and utilize at least
one critical text from the course. It should also engage indigenous
perspectives in some way. The final project may include both written and/or
audio-visual/multimedia components. Page length will vary depending on
audio/visual components (15-25 pages). Audio-visual components can vary in
format and length, although final projects must be presentable in class.  An outline/abstract and a class presentation
on the final project are also required.

5. Library
workshop and possible off-campus fieldtrip.

LANGUAGE: At this time, the English Department does not allow Hawaiian language
prerequisites for Hawaiian Literature courses. 
However, students should understand that it is challenging to seriously
study any literature based in a
language and culture other than English without undertaking basic understanding
of that language and culture.  Thus,
while no prior knowledge of Hawaiian language or culture is required for this
course by the Department at this time, the professor strongly encourages
students who would like to seriously study Hawaiian literature in English to
learn the language.  Students with such
background are encouraged to utilize their skills and knowledge throughout the
course in class discussions, course papers, and other assignments.