Romy Courat (left) and Andrew Gumataotao (right)
Scholarship recipients Romy Courat (left) and Andrew Gumataotao (right)

A recipient of the University of Hawaiʻi Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2004, the late Paul Lyons stood out as one of the English department’s most respected and beloved scholars, teachers and mentors. After his passing on April 1, 2018, his family established an endowed scholarship to honor his work and to benefit masters candidates at UH Mānoa whose research interests focus on the literatures and languages of Oceania (Pacific islands, including Hawaiʻi and Aotearoa).

The recipients of the inaugural 2019 Paul Lyons Scholarship are: Romy Courat, MA student in the French division of the Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas, and Andrew Gumataotao, MA student in ethnomusicology at UH Mānoa. Courat is conducting research on contemporary Tahitian literature and its representations of metropolitan France. Gumataotao is part of a research group documenting Chamoru language, and his scholarly work focuses on Guam’s musical traditions. Each recipient was awarded $1,000 to further their research.

Courat and Gumataotao will be honored on December 13, at an English department reception.

More about Lyons

Paul Lyons

Lyons joined the UH Mānoa English department in 1991, after earning his BA from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, his MA from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of North Carolina.

Hired as a scholar of 19th century American literature, he was also an accomplished creative writer, having already published his first two novels, Table Legs in 1988 and Going for Broke in 1991. Button Man, a third novel, was published in 2004.

Over the course of his career, Lyons developed a profound commitment to Hawaiʻi and the Pacific, which was increasingly reflected in his scholarship. His many published essays include studies of local writers such as John Dominis Holt, Gary Pak, Wayne Kaumualiʻi Westlake and Richard Hamasaki, as well as classic American literary figures. Much of his published work concerns theoretical, methodological and pedagogical issues in the study and teaching of the literature of the Pacific region, from Melville’s Pacific travel narratives to Epeli Hauʻofa’s meditations on Oceania as “our sea of islands.”

Among Lyons’ most significant contributions to American literary and Pacific Island studies are his 2006 book, American Pacificism: Oceania in the U.S. Imagination and “Pacific Currents,” the first special issue of American Quarterly to come out of its new editorial home at UH Mānoa, which he co-edited with Ty Kāwika Tengan, an associate professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at UH Mānoa.

Lyons was particularly interested in the complex issues surrounding the formation and maintenance of cross-cultural and inter-racial literary friendships in the colonial context, including an unfinished monograph titled “Native-Settler Collaboration and Friendship in Hawaiʻi.” Another large project he was working on at the time of his death was a comparative study of African-American and Oceanian literatures.