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hidden heroes: cultural interaction and nationalism in nineteenth and early twentieth century hawaiian biographies bryan kamaoli kuwada On November 27, 1905, the first installment of a serial biography was published in a Honolulu-based newspaper. Alongside it, an editorial called for people to read the biography to know their history better, reminding them that William Gladstone said that the true enlightenment of a race of people is found once the stories of their birthland are known to them. The author of the editorial continued on to say that though we as a nation must continue to move forward in this progressive era, we must still be guided by Henry Wads­ worth Longfellow’s words: And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sand of time Footprints, that perhaps another Sailing o’er life’s solemn main A forlorn and shipwrecked brother Seeing, shall take heart again. Actually, the printed Longfellow quote looked more like this: E waiho iho i hoailona Ma ka pue one o ke au o ka manawa I kaa ai ka ike I ou mau hoa e nee mai ana He alahele no keia ua hele mua ia A loaa no he kupaa ana no ia nee ana aku i mua. This editorial, entitled “Ka Ipu Alabata” [‘The Alabaster Jar’],1 was written by a highly nationalistic Hawaiian author well-versed in Hawaiian literary 116 Locating Life Stories traditions, yet he saw no conflict or irony whatsoever in invoking the likes of Gladstone and Longfellow in an article stressing the importance of holding on to Hawaiian history and celebrating the lives of Hawaiian heroes. The majority of Hawaiian-language readers at the beginning of the twentieth century saw no conflict either. The author had enough faith in his reading audience’s general knowledge to mention Pöhakuhau‘oli (Gladstone) and Hoapililö‘ihi (Longfellow) by last name alone. He was also confident enough in his readership’s familiarity with foreign literature that when he quoted the above stanza and a half from Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” he knew they would recall the two lines from the first stanza he left unsaid: “Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime.” It was, in fact, the life of a great man that the author was calling the people ’s attention to—the life of Kamehameha I, the unifier of the Hawaiian Islands—and this paper also pays attention to Kamehameha through one of his biographies, Ka Moolelo o Kamehameha I, written by Ho‘oulumähiehie. This “biography” provides a clear example of how foreign literature and literary genres were enfolded within Hawaiian literary traditions and deployed to further Hawaiian aims, demonstrating how life writing in certain supposedly peripheral regions can both be influenced by and transform dominant models from East and West. As anyone who examines closely this ideological binary of East versus West immediately recognizes, such constructions of the world leave whole swathes of people uncategorized and ignored. This paper therefore not only argues that such simple binaries as East/ West, colonizer/colonized, missionary/native,2 or even settler/indigenous are insufficient to analyze the historical practice of life writing in places like Hawai‘i, it also shows that Hawaiians such as Ho‘oulumähiehie were already highly cognizant of the complexity of these cultural interactions. In fact, they were clearly wrestling with and navigating their way through these foreign structures of meaning, and in Ho‘oulumähiehie’s case, actually deploying certain foreign traditions of life writing as a means of cultural resistance and a nationalistic rallying cry. In order to present this idea more fully, I will first provide an overview of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s interactions with foreign ideas and technologies, and how this interplay helped to shape the cultural context out of which late-nineteenth and early-twentieth -century Hawaiian-language biography arose. Then, I will show how Ho‘oulumähiehie carefully appropriated and wielded these foreign life writing conventions in Ka Moolelo o Kamehameha I in a manner consistent with Hawaiian literary traditions rather than with the dominant “Western” model . And last, I will look at the social and cultural work that these nationalistic biographies written by Ho‘oulumähiehie and others carried out in the Hawaiian kingdom. Kuwada, Hidden Heroes 117 navigating between east and west Though the first texts printed in Hawaiian appeared in 1822, the advent of widespread literacy in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i can be traced back to 1826, when...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780824837730
Related ISBN
9780824837303
MARC Record
OCLC
861528066
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-19
Language
English
Open Access
No
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