Introduction to Literature: Literary History: Literature of Micronesia – Stories of Tradition and Modernity

ENG 270(003)
Instructor: Leiana Naholowaa
Time: MWF 10:30-11:20
Crn: 85555
Focus: DL,NI,WI


The literary history of Micronesia is rooted in oral traditions, and in this course, we will listen to audio recordings and view multimedia of traditional and contemporary stories when available. We will also read a wide selection of myths, legends, folklore, poetry, and short stories in various published collections from the region and in the diaspora.

This class is divided into two main themes. In “Stories of the Sea,” we will examine stories of water deities, monsters, and worlds under the ocean, as well as stories of seafaring, which remains a thriving practice in Micronesia. A Carolinian master navigator from Micronesia known as Papa Mau Piailug had guided the Polynesian Voyaging Society from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti in 1976 and helped the region reclaim indigenous seafaring. We will also observe the emergence in contemporary times of stories related to nuclear testing, climate change, and rising sea levels that affect the most vulnerable communities in Micronesia and the Pacific.

In “Stories of the Land,” we will examine stories of the body, and the people’s connection to the land through their ancestors. Indigenous values of caring for one another and for the land and how this care circulates and returns are seen in traditional storytelling. Modern threats to the land in the form of militarization and commercialization will also be discussed as well as current discrimination. In a letter to the Honolulu Police Department from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i on July 5, 2020, it states that police were “30 times more likely to arrest a Micronesian person and five times more likely to arrest a Black or Samoan person for violations of the COVID-19 orders than to arrest a white person.” This discrimination that Micronesians experience in the Pacific that predates the current pandemic will be discussed in relation to stories of community and discord more broadly.

Texts (subject to change):

Myths, legends, and folklore of Micronesia (various publications, provided by instructor)

Poetry and short stories (various anthologies, provided by instructor)

Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, 2017.

Indigenous Literatures of Micronesia, edited by Evelyn Flores and Emelihter Kihleng, 2019.

The Properties of Perpetual Light by Julian Aguon, 2021.


short reflections, book review, literary analysis, multimedia presentation (you’ll have a range of options), and research paper