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Mapping the Godzone

Mapping the Godzone: A Primer on New Zealand Literature and Culture

William J. Schafer
Copyright Date: 1998
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  • Book Info
    Mapping the Godzone
    Book Description:

    William Schafer read, and dreamed, about New Zealand before his first visit in 1995. Mapping the Godzone grew out of that visit and his attempts, as an American, to focus his impressions of New Zealand's literary culture and relate its mental and moral landscape to that of the United States. Through an idiosyncratic selection of contemporary novels and films, Schafer opens up a complex and compelling world. Readers will encounter internationally celebrated writers such as Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Kidman, Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Maurice Shadbolt, Albert Wendt, Alan Duff, Keri Hulme, Patricia Grace, Ian Wedde, and Janet Frame; and the emerging New Zealand film industry and the handful of directors (among them Jane Campion, Peter Jackson, Vincent Ward, and Geoff Murphy) who have created a vital cinema renaissance since the 1970s. Stimulating and highly original in its approach, Mapping the Godzone is an eloquent reflection on a remote island nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6352-4
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VII)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. VIII-VIII)
  4. Preface: Sailing to Aotearoa
    (pp. IX-XVIII)
  5. Fishing with Maui: Beginning the Voyage
    (pp. 1-13)

    The hills are mystical South Pacific white whales in winter—slow-rolling humpbacks surfacing from craggy stone foothills, sere meadows, and expanses of stern high-plains desert. Vistas open out broadly, of rolling paddock upon rolling paddock, of a very high and wide blue sky spotted by clouds like the lambs that speckle the hillsides, so greening earth and towering sky echo each other eerily. As you drive, you climb easily from ridges along which the wide two-lane blacktop slithers, up into suddenly steep upgrades that kink themselves through neck-wrenching switchbacks higher and higher to a triumphal pass with a view of...

  6. 1 Where on Earth Is Aotearoa?
    (pp. 14-36)

    The Maori explained the peopling of New Zealand thusly: a demigod or culture hero named Maui sailed the great southern ocean. He cast a fishing line with a magic hook into it in the remote and empty south, far from the many islands of Polynesia, and pulled up a great fish, which we now call the North Island (Te Ika a Maui, “the fish of Maui”). The South Island (Te Waipounamu, “the road to the greenstone”) was Maui’s overturned canoe, on which he sat to fish.

    These places were later discovered and peopled by Polynesian explorers in great oceangoing canoes,...

  7. 2 Whalers, Sailors, Sealers
    (pp. 37-55)

    New Zealand, after Captain Cook’s voyages of mapping and exploring (1769–1772), was settled by small groups of mariners arriving from the new settlements in Australia and commercial seamen opening the vast South Pacific fisheries and hunting grounds. Sealing and whaling began in New Zealand in the 1790s. By the 1820s, the seals were depleted and whaling was the dominant industry. Sealers and whalers had worked the Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island, an easy voyage from Tasmania and Botany Bay in Australia. They also set up stations along the coastlines of both the North and South Islands.

    Shore and bay...

  8. 3 The Last Big Islands
    (pp. 56-92)

    If the legend of Maui’s Fish is the archetypal mythic creation story of the Maori, the story of Kupe the navigator is something closer to rationalistic Western history. This version of the discovery of Aotearoa is framed in recent historical time and involves mortals, the inhabitants of Hawaiki, the hypothesized Maori homeland.

    The story describes Kupe as a skilled sailor and wanderer, an Odysseus of the South Pacific, who compiles knowledge of the seas by experience and intuition. Kupe decides—by foresight or imaginative vision or sibylline insight—that fruitful lands lie an immense distance from Hawaiki, sails and finds...

  9. 4 Once Were Crusaders
    (pp. 93-115)

    The long human settlement of Aotearoa over the past twelve hundred years has been marked by multifarious violence. Conflicts between people and the environment and between groups of people have shaped the culture in unique, subtle ways.

    The Maori-pakeha experience through the nineteenth century was fundamentally different from the U.S. immigrant majority’s experience with Amerindians, African slaves, and non-European immigrants. The Maori had developed a fairly stable, homogenous culture, including a complex military tradition in which men of aniwiserved as a standing militia, expected to defend theiwiand its region against attack. They also developed a symbiosis...

  10. 5 The Bildungsroman at the End of the World
    (pp. 116-136)

    Frank Sargeson (1903–1982) is usually acknowledged as the key pathfinder of modern New Zealand fiction-writers, a pioneer who brought the language and attitudes of everyday New Zealanders fully into serious stories and novels. Sargeson described his slow self-apprenticeship in the mid-1920s, when he taught himself the art of writing by reading and imitating James Joyce—especially the intense confessional fiction ofA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manand the incisive social miniatures ofDubliners. Working alone and naively in a provincial culture with no incentives for his development as an artist, Sargeson defined a style and...

  11. 6 The Necessity of Ghosts: Aotearoa Gothic
    (pp. 137-159)

    A common cultural link between pakeha and Maori, although unconscious and largely unacknowledged, is the belief in the hauntedness of the landscape, the sense that Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of sinister and unseen forces, of imminent (and immanent) threat, of the undead or revenant spirits. This feeling and the presence of the gothic mode are among striking first impressions of modern New Zealand literature and film.

    The novels of Ronald Hugh Morrieson are a prime example. His three completed novels—The Scarecrow(1963),Came a Hot Friday(1964), andPredicament(1974)—are all versions of pop-vernacular gothic, with...

  12. 7 Falling through the Hole in the Godzone
    (pp. 160-174)

    Fortunately this final story in her first collection,The Lagoon(1951), was by no means Janet Frame’s last story, and in fact she wrote steadily on the topics she listed, plus many others, in a powerful three-decker autobiography—To the Is-Land(1982),An Angel at My Table(1984), andThe Envoy from Mirror City(1984)—one of the century’s great feats of imaginative self-description.

    The story unfolds as a record of Frame’s coping with what may or may not have been genuine mental illness, her cruel mistreatment in the mid-twentieth century (including long periods of electro-convulsive therapy [ECT] and narrowly...

  13. 8 Aotearoa at the Movies
    (pp. 175-186)

    Although pioneer cinematographers made New Zealand films from the 1920s onward, as movies became a worldwide medium of communication, a major film industry did not develop until the 1970s. Documentaries and theatrical films were made, New Zealand was an exciting and exotic setting for a few Hollywood movies, but only after the age of television was well advanced (national TV broadcasting began in 1961) did an indigenous film industry develop, and then slowly and modestly. (Two useful references on New Zealand cinema are Jonathan Dennis and Jan Bieringa, eds.,Film in Aotearoa New Zealand[Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1992], and...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-190)
  15. Index
    (pp. 191-197)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-198)