'Entitled to a History': The World of Alice Tawhai's Short Stories and the Maori Literary Tradition
Modlik, K. (2014). ‘Entitled to a History’: The World of Alice Tawhai’s Short Stories and the Maori Literary Tradition (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8993
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8993
New Zealand short story writer Alice Tawhai is one of the latest additions to the Maori literary tradition. Her three collections of short stories, Festival of Miracles, Luminous and Dark Jelly, deal with issues not entirely unique to New Zealand – from gang life, to domestic violence, to drug and alcohol abuse – and take as their primary subject an alienated, marginalized and disenfranchised underclass. This means she is likely to be read as speaking solely for the Maori experience. This thesis will revise this misconception, which in effect ghettoizes or marginalizes Tawhai’s work. Influential women writers of the Maori literary tradition, such as J. C. Sturm, Patricia Grace and Keri Hulme, have taken a particular interest in the long legacy of colonialism in New Zealand, especially of the impact of that legacy on Maori women. This thesis demonstrates that while Tawhai’s work engages with these familiar notions, her gaze is not limited to these issues. This thesis therefore places Tawhai’s work within that tradition and matrilineal genealogy before going on to show how she moves the paradigm beyond the usual grievances of biculturalism and colonialism, orienting her work instead around the increasingly multicultural experience of contemporary life in New Zealand. The first section of this thesis will establish a platform for reading Tawhai in regards to her literary legacy and in the context of contemporary thinking, drawing on cultural theorist Stuart Hall and his theory on identity formation and identity politics as well as indigenous writings experts Patrick Evans and Chadwick Allen. This thesis will then move into its second section, which is an analysis of some of the overarching themes that can be found in the short stories of Tawhai’s literary foremothers, Sturm, Grace and Hulme. These include, for example, racism and discrimination, loss of ancestral lands, problems to do with urbanization and family violence. The third and final section of this thesis will then consider Tawhai’s representation of contemporary experience, taking a particular interest in her portrayals of contemporary multicultural ethnic identities as well as the flexible and provisional nature of gendered and sexual identities today. The final subsection will then analyze her representations of the new family and social structures that may have replaced the traditional family model. Through a close reading of her short stories and an appreciation of the legacy that she bears, this thesis will show how Tawhai’s work is a larger lens of contemporary New Zealand society as well as a significant addition to the Maori literary tradition.
University of Waikato
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- Masters Degree Theses