Lit of the Pacific (60; XL PACS 371)

Wendt’s famous description of the Pacific as “so vast, so fabulous a creature” is celebratory and inspiring but can also be a little intimidating. How can we read across such a complex region? How can such cultural, historical and literary diversity lead to productive, rather than confused, conversations? What does writing look like in the Pacific – who’s doing it, and how? – and how is our view of Pacific Literature both expanded and limited by where we are? How do we read non-Indigenous writers from around the region, and how do we engage with non-Indigenous perspectives of the region?  


The course is structured around three modules: reading the Pacific in Hawai’i, reading around the Pacific, and reading Pacifically. The first module focuses on reading in specific place, starting with Indigenous Hawaiian writers and turning to Pacific writers whose Indigenous links lie elsewhere in the region but who live in Hawai’i. We then turn our attention to reading around the Pacific region, starting chronologically with a focus on ‘foundational’ Pacific writers and then reading spatially when we engage three recent texts by new writers from each of the three major cultural groups of the region. Finally, we will consider what it might mean to read regionally – Oceanically, as suggested by Wendt and Hau’ofa – and focus our discussions by reading one specific novel alongside several shorter texts.


As well as seminar-style class sessions, our time together will also be spent welcoming guest writers to read for us, watching films and participating in focused writing workshops. Required reading not listed below will be available to download and print via Laulima.


Course Requirements

  • Attendance and participation
  • Two short formal papers
  • Informal and semi-structured writing assignments
  • Two group presentations
  • ‘Taking it to the people’ assignment
  • Research paper


Required Texts  

  • Sullivan, Wendt, Whaitiri, Mauri Ola
  • Brandy Nalani McDougall & Craig Santos Perez, Undercurrent[download from iTunes]
  • Vernice Wineera, Into the Luminous Tide: Pacific Poems
  • Kaui Hart Hemmings. The Descendants
  • Emelihter Kihleng, My Urohs 
  • Daren Kamali, Tales, Poems and Songs from the Underwater World 
  • LaniWendtYoung, Telesa – The Covenant Keeper.[download from]
  • Chantal Spitz, Island of Shattered Dreams
  • Albert Wendt, From Manoa to a Ponsonby Garden