Contextualising Māori writing: a study of prose fiction written in English by Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme and Alan Duff
Calvert, J. H. (2002). Contextualising Māori writing: a study of prose fiction written in English by Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme and Alan Duff (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14014
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14014
All prose fiction written in English by Māori is political on one level or another. The authors considered in this thesis, Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme and Alan Duff, choose to identify as Māori, but for each writer exactly what this entails implies something different. The diverse range of Māori characters represented in their work illustrates the heterogeneity of contemporary Māori identity. Whilst bearing in mind that there is no fixed Māori identity, this thesis proposes that all fiction written in English by Māori is motivated by a belief that Māori are a disadvantaged group within New Zealand society. Three of the four writers, Ihimaera, Grace and Hulme, write against a background of colonisation. Their fiction confronts grievances based on perceived injustices committed against Māori in the past by European colonists and is concerned with the restoration of Māori rights pertaining to land, language, identity and political voice. While all three engage with these issues in their fiction, this thesis specifically considers the way in which Ihimaera treats the theme of land, Grace focuses on issues of education and Hulme explores Māori mythology. Alan Duff stands apart from the other three writers in his belief that colonisation is not to blame for contemporary Māori disadvantage. Rather, Duff considers the situation to be the result of inherent flaws within Māori society. Through his often didactic writing he proposes that improved Māori socioeconomic levels can only be achieved through a radical structural and economic re-evaluation of Māori culture. This thesis contextualises the work of the four authors and explores the ways in which their fiction engages with historical and contemporary issues of “race relations” and cultural identity in New Zealand. A sociological approach has been applied to the texts. This approach derives from the Māori writers’ own insistent reading of contemporary Māori identity as the product of historical encounter between Māori and Pākehā. The authors work in a dialectical relationship to previous Pākehā representations of Māori in literature, are historically revisionist, and are frequently adversarial. Despite the differences in personal and political perspectives held by the authors, their fictions share a common goal in their search for Māori pathways to empowerment. This thesis argues that prose fiction written in English by Māori writers contributes to the political activism of the Māori people and helps to foster an environment in which new perspectives on Māori culture and bicultural relations can be articulated.
The University of Waikato
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