Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Second Advisor

Chiyuma Elliott

Third Advisor

Jay Watson

Abstract

This thesis is interested in hearing the voices seldom heard. It looks at the poetry of Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamorro from Guam, in an attempt to begin puzzling out the idea of transformation in Guam and the military's complicity in the process. While erasure seems to be trending and emerging as a term that would, on the surface, adequately bring attention to the loss of culture, land, and language in Guam, it has the tendency to overshadow and ignore the varying degrees that Guam has changed in the presence of military rule. Other forms of transformation include, but are not limited to, silencing, damaging, displacement, oppression, repurposing, appropriation, hybridization, recruitment, and assimilation. All of these, to some degree, are represented in Perez's poetry. A hybrid project that includes a creative nonfiction introduction and an interview with the poet, this thesis examines the diverse forms of transformation through a close look at Perez's three books of his multi-book project. Perez's poetry creates focus and familiarity for readers. In other words, it emplaces Guam, an unfamiliar militarized "space" for most readers, and creates a personal connection to the vernacular spiritual place of Guam that is Chamorro culture. Also, I will show how focus and familiarity present in Perez's work result in shifted environmental commitments, especially as they relate to the consequences of military occupation. In doing so, I will posit the poetry into the current environmental justice discussion that exists among literary scholars and eco-philosophers like Rob Nixon and Ursula Heise, who have successfully demonstrated the important role the imagination plays in understanding, responding to, and doing something about anthropogenically driven environmental change.

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