Oceania in the U.S. Imagination
By Paul Lyons
Routledge – 2005 – 288 pages
This provocative analysis and critique of American representations of Oceania and Oceanians from the nineteenth century to the present, argues that imperial fantasies have glossed over a complex, violent history. It introduces the concept of ‘American Pacificism’, a theoretical framework that draws on contemporary theories of friendship, hospitality and tourism to refigure established debates around ‘orientalism’ for an Oceanian context.
Paul Lyons explores American-Islander relations and traces the ways in which two fundamental conceptions of Oceania have been entwined in the American imagination. On the one hand, the Pacific islands are seen as economic and geopolitical ‘stepping stones’, rather than ends in themselves, whilst on the other they are viewed as ends of the earth or ‘cultural limits’, unencumbered by notions of sin, antitheses to the industrial worlds of economic and political modernity. However, both conceptions obscure not only Islander cultures, but also innovative responses to incursion. The islands instead emerge in relation to American national identity, as places for scientific discovery, soul-saving and civilizing missions, manhood-testing adventure, nuclear testing and eroticized furloughs between maritime work and warfare.
Ranging from first contact and the colonial archive through to postcolonialism and global tourism, this thought-provoking volume draws upon a wide, rewarding collection of literary works, historical and cultural scholarship, government documents and tourist literature.
Acknowledgements Introduction: Bound-Together Stories, Varieties of Ignorance, and the Challenge of Hospitality 1. Where "Cannibalism" Has Been, Tourism Will Be: Forms and Functions of American Pacificism 2. Opening Accounts in the South Seas: Edgar Allan Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, James Fenimore Cooper's The Crater and the Antebellum Development of American Pacificism 3. Lines of Fright: Fear, Perception, Performance and the "Seen" of Cannibalism in Charles Wilkes' Narrative and Herman Melville's Typee 4. A Poetics of Relation: Friendships Between Oceanians and Americans in the Literature of Encounter 5. From Man-Eaters to Spam-Eaters: Cannibal Tours, Lotus-Eaters and the (anti)Development of Early Twentieth-Century Imaginings of Oceania 6. Redeeming Hawai'i (and Oceania) in Cold War Terms: A. Grove Day, James Michener and Histouricism Conclusion: Changing Pre-Scriptions: Varieties of Antitourism in the Contemporary Literatures of Oceania Bibliography
Paul Lyons is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawai´i-Manoa. He publishes and reviews regularly on American literature, and is the author of three novels. In 2004 he received the Board of Regents´ Award for Excellence in Teaching.