“On and On It Goes”: Representations of the New Zealand Wars in novels, film, and theatre
Sheridan, B. D. (2019). ‘On and On It Goes’: Representations of the New Zealand Wars in novels, film, and theatre (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12629
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12629
This thesis considers fictional representations of the New Zealand Wars. Through the media of novels, feature films, and drama with links to Shakespeare, it explores common features between representations. It examines how these representations change in tone or style over time and how different representations negotiate the complex issues of race, gender, and colonialism. I examine key representations ranging from 1861 to 2017 in terms of genre. I begin with the nineteenth-century novel as many of the key tropes used in representations of the New Zealand Wars emerge in this period. I then look at the twentieth-century novel, before concentrating specifically on Maurice Shadbolt and Witi Ihimaera. My discussion then turns to the genres of film and theatre. In all of these diverse representations there are recurring tropes and motifs. Many of the fictions feature stock characters such as the European traveller, the imperial official, and the Māori maiden and bear the imprint of historical romance conventions, popularised by Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly and James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. The vast majority of stories take place in the North Island between 1860 and 1870. Variations in the depiction of historical events are shaped by the historical scholarship and dominant ideologies of the time, such as the post-colonial tonal shift that emerges following the publication of work by James Belich and Ranginui Walker. I contextualise representations with their point in history, and how they treat the New Zealand Wars in terms of events, characters, and historical figures. Through this approach, my thesis argues that representations of the New Zealand Wars do not form themselves in isolation and do not occur in isolated clusters. This thesis seeks to demonstrate that representations of the New Zealand Wars occur on a steady continuum. Representations of the conflict exist in parallel to one another (intentional or not) and are affected by the social climate, dominant ideologies, and published histories available to the author at the time of writing. The variety of representations—novel, feature film, stage play—share many core tropes. Even so, chronologically this continuum also features shifts in tone, ideologies, and sympathies. A novel of the 1980s has a very different perspective regarding settlers compared to a novel from the 1860s. In the same manner, a play staged in the 2000s shows a different attitude towards the conflict compared to a film from the 1940s. This thesis demonstrates that while representations of the New Zealand Wars share a common subject, how they approach the material is constantly evolving.
The University of Waikato
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