SemLitsHI: Hawaiian Literature (LSE/CSAP/AP)

Ka Piko Palapala
Hawai‘i: Foundations of Hawaiian Literature

From the
arrival of Captain Cook (1778) to the Overthrow (1893) to the present, Kanaka
Maoli (Native Hawaiians) have engaged in a continued celebration of our
cultural arts—including literary production, while simultaneously engaging with
and resisting foreign oppression in all forms (cultural, political, social, and
economic). More than personal expression, Hawaiian literature remained one of
the few forms of artistic self-representation in which Hawaiians could
communicate with each other during a time when oppressive missionary-imposed
laws forbade public performances of cultural practices such as hula, and public
discourse in the newspapers were censored. From the mid-nineteenth to
mid-twentieth century, Hawaiian literature—especially literature published in
the Hawaiian language newspapers—were an important tool of arts and politics, conveying
messages of resistance to a savvy native publication through the revered
practice of kaona (underlying metaphors) encouraging resist colonial oppression,
and the sustenance and rebuilding of the Lāhui Hawai‘i—the Hawaiian Nation.


This course
discusses the foundation and transformation of mo‘olelo Hawai‘i, Hawaiian
literature (as orature), from traditional society (pre-19th century) through
the development of “Ka Palapala” (writing, primarily in Hawaiian), to the
present. We will explore multi-genres of Kanaka Maoli literature from the early
nineteenth century to the present within historical, cultural and interpretive
contexts.  Texts will be primarily
written in or translated into English, with an understanding that these are
built upon a vibrant foundation of orature and literature written in the
Hawaiian language.  We will examine the
foundations of Kanaka Maoli literary and poetic expression built from ‘ōlelo
Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) and the ‘āina (land, environment). We will also
trace how colonial resistance surfaced in Hawaiian literary art forms,
especially through the traditional genres of poetry (through chant, song, and
genealogy), mo‘olelo 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) or “Ka Palapala” 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 and forms. Texts will include multimedia
forms (websites, audio CD, and video/DVD). 


questions underlying this course include: What is Hawaiian literature? Where
does it come from? How has it evolved over the past two centuries? What is
included within it? What is not? What are its aesthetical underpinnings? How do
we apply literary theory in our study of it? What is our kuleana (rights,
responsibilities) as scholars, writers, and consumers of Ka Palapala? Where
does it fit within the larger categories of (Native) American Literatures?
(Indigenous) Pacific Literatures? World Literatures? Hawaiian cultural and
political production?


familiarizing students with a substantial range of literary work by Kanaka
Maoli writers over a period of approximately 150 years, while reading these
texts as cultural, political, and historical productions as well as literary
texts; 2. identifying and applying indigenous and other critical theories to
the reading of these texts; 3. developing more complex understandings of the
dynamics of cultural translation between the practices and aesthetic concerns
of Hawaiian literature in conversation with Pacific and other literatures; 4.
discuss the application and relevance of literary theory to Ka Palapala


are encouraged to bring their own academic interests and questions in
discussing this topic, as well as 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. Foundational
texts we will use include Trask, Silva, ho‘omanawanui, Meyer, Johnson,
Apo-Perkins, Wendt, Thaman, wa Thiong, Justice, Tuhiwai-Smith and King, amongst


  Attendance is mandatory; missing one class is
equivalent to missing one week of school. Students will write weekly responses on
Laulima to assigned readings. Students will also lead a class discussion on a
reading that will include a handout. An annotated bibliography or literature
review on an assigned topic, and participation in a class project. A longer
critical essay (20-25 pgs.) on an aspect of Hawaiian literature, utilizing at
least one primary and one critical text from the course will also be required. Mandatory
Library Research Workshop. Possible field trip.


texts (not including a Course Reader):


Frances, tr.  The True Story of Kaluaiko‘olau.

ku‘ualoha, ed. ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian
vol. 4.

Matthew.  Written in the Sky

Thomas. The Truth About Stories. 

Manu, Moses. Pelekeahi‘āloa and Wakakeakaikawai.

Womack, et al. Reasoning Together: The Native Critics