Seminar in Hawaiian Literature: Hawaiian Literary Nationalism

Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono

The sovereignty of the land continues because of justice

(Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III, 1848)


The lesson of statehood is a lesson of loss and despair: the loss of land,

of self-government, of language; the despair of political powerlessness,

of cultural prostitution, of economic exploitation

(Haunani Kay Trask, 1993)

The focus of this course is Indigenous Literary Nationalism as an approach to the study and understanding of ʻŌiwi literature from the nineteenth century to the present, specifically its pivotal role in movements for Hawaiian cultural and political sovereignty.

Throughout the semester we will read key scholars and texts who birthed the concept of Indigenous Literary Nationalism in the 1990s, and other relevant scholarship in Hawaiian, Pacific, and Indigenous literatures which will frame our discussions of our core ʻŌiwi literary texts by ʻŌiwi writers. Through our readings, we will explore representations of the lāhui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian people, nation) and our relationship to our ‘āina (land). We will also examine how this relationship is the foundation for Aloha ʻĀina—cultural and political activism seeking the restoration of Ea (sovereignty, independence). Because of (settler) colonial intrusion into Hawaiian Kingdom governance across the nineteenth century, ʻŌiwi literary nationalism coalesced in the 1880s-90s, demonstrating an intentional political and intellectual consciousness reflected in our literature. This comes several decades prior to many US Native nations, who point to the early to mid-twentieth century as the start of their literary nationalism. More importantly, we will discuss what such Indigenous-centered texts “do” culturally, politically, and aesthetically, as well as how these are interwoven, and why it is important to understand.

Some questions we will consider:

  • Who and what is the lāhui? How do concepts such as moʻokūʻauhau and diaspora contribute to the understanding of lāhui? How do individuals negotiate personal values and experiences with that of the lāhui, particularly within formulating larger movements of solidarity?
  • What is Aloha ʻĀina? How has it evolved across time—or has it?
  • How is Mōʻī David Kalākaua’s motto, “Hoʻoulu lāhui” reflected in (and around) ʻŌiwi literature?
  • What key aspects of Hawaiian culture and identity are represented within the texts, and how are they reflected as literary themes?
  • What practices of Hawaiian culture do authors adapt to writing? How do these become recognizable ʻŌiwi literary, aesthetic, poetic and/or rhetorical practices?
  • How are concepts of Aloha ʻĀina (and Ea) represented within ʻŌiwi literary texts?
  • How does kaona (metaphor, poetic allusion or meaning) produce (or support) layered representations of the lāhui Hawaiʻi? What about other meiwi (Hawaiian aesthetic and literary devices)?
  • How are ʻŌiwi values and worldviews represented, engaged, and/or interrogated in ʻŌiwi literature, particularly in regard to concepts of identity construction in the revitalization of the lāhui (inclusion, exclusion, and the resulting trauma), while simultaneously grappling with social, cultural, economic, and political issues and intergenerational trauma?

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the semester, students should understand the concept of Indigenous literary nationalism and be able to apply it to literary texts; be familiar with selected ʻŌiwi literature, related poetics, aesthetics, practices and terms; develop 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; demonstrate advanced critical analysis in written and oral formats.

Primary Texts (tentative):

  • Altiery, Mason. The Last Village in Kona (1981).
  • Apio, Alani. Kamau (2000).
  • Baker, Tammy Hailiʻōpua. My Boy, He Play Ball.
  • Dudoit, Māhealani, ed. ‘ōiwi, a Native Hawaiian Journal, 1, 1998 (available online).
  • hoʻomanawanui, kuʻualoha. Voices of Fire, Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hiʻiaka Literature (2014).
  • Koʻolau, Piʻilani and Kahikina Kelekona. The True Story of Kaluaikoʻolau. Frazier, Frances (2001).
  • Silva, Noenoe. The Power of the Steel-tipped Pen (2017).
  • Warrior, Robert, et al. American Indian Literary Nationalism (2006).
  • Womack, Craig. Red on Red, Native American Literary Separatism (1999).
  • Additional readings and handouts will be posted on Laulima under “Resources.”

Course Requirements:

An annotated bibliography on selected ʻŌiwi texts; a short critical essay or close reading; lead a class discussion on an assigned reading; a final research project