Literature of the Pacific (Large Enrollment)

This course is a study of the literatures of the
Pacific especially the literature in English by indigenous writers, and how
that is related to other new literatures in English. The course will first (a)
look at oral literature/traditions, then (b) move to a discussion of the
written literature by the indigenous writers of Hawai’i, Aotearoa/New Zealand,
Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Fiji,
Kiribati, and Guam.

The course surveys and explores ways in which heroic
motifs from oratures of Oceania, such as quest, pilgrimage, combat, descent,
transformation and return will serve as thematic focal points to chart a
comparative course of study across various Polynesian cultures, including
Samoa, Hawai’i, Maori and Tonga, among others. The course will explore
influences of colonialism, feminism, and western education on contemporary
literatures by indigenous writers of Oceania.

Literary texts and filmic texts will be drawn from
contemporary writing by indigenous writers of Oceania. We will consider how
such writers represent emergent ‘speakers’ and writers of both individual and
collective narratives of their respective peoples. We will consider
developmental linkages between oratures and their literary counterparts in the
context of historical, social, and political transformations.

The course will fulfill hallmarks for the “Hawaiian,
Asian, and Pacific Issues” (HAPS) designation by exploring the intersections of
Pacific island cultures’ literatures with those of Native Hawaiian culture; by
examining ways in which those literatures are informed and shaped by the
diverse cultures of Oceania; by analyzing ways in which the literatures negotiate
and mediate contemporary issues such as environmental conservation,
neo/colonial histories, politics, economics, and emergent technologies; by
considering the literatures as vehicles of greater understanding among the
diverse cultures of the region and beyond.

Emphasis in class will be on discussion, shared
responses to readings, collaboration and group work.

Major objectives for the course include: (1) broadening and developing

skills; (2) developing abilities to recognize and
analyze themes and motifs across a range of literary genres and cultural
traditions; (3) acquiring an awareness of differences and similarities in the
themes and motifs characteristic of Pacific literatures; (4) developing an awareness
of developmental linkages between oratures and literatures; and (5) broadening
a knowledge of indigenous oratures and literatures in the context of historical

Required texts (available at Revolution Books behind
Puck’s Alley)


Tu, Patricia

This is
, Kristiana Kahakauwila.

My Urohs, Emelihter Kihleng

Leaves of the
Banyan Tree
, Albert Wendt

Mauri Ola:
Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English
Eds. A Wendt, R. Whaitiri, R. Sullivan

Breadfruit: A Novel, Celestine Vaite

A Course Reader
(available from EMA Copiers on campus) will feature selections from oratures,
such as Papatuanuku and Hine nui te Po/Mahuika, Nafanua and Sina, Pele and
Hi’iaka; literatures, including: poetry by Steven Winduo, Konai Thaman,
Hone Tuwhare, Tusiata Avia, Joe Balaz, Haunani-Kay Trask, Robert Sullivan,
Brandy Nalani MacDougall, Craig Santos Perez, Selena Tusitala Marsh; short fiction
by Sia Figiel, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, and others.

Films & Video – several feature and/or short
films, such as Mauri by Merata Mita, O Tamaiti by Sima Urale, and
selected episodes of Bro Town by
Oscar Kightley, et al. will be provided by the instructor.

Assignments & Grading scale


Reaction/Response Papers & Online postings   30%

Panel Presentation(s) on weekly readings   30%

Final Project/Critical Essay   40%

  • The Final Project may be either a Critical Essay (12-15
    pages), or a mixed media presentation which includes a substantial written
    component in essay form articulating the conceptual framework and trajectory of
    the work.
  • Weekly online responses to readings and films (10
  • 1 Panel Presentation

Extra credit

Reviews or reports on approved performance events, plays
and/or films.