New Zealand Literature

New Zealand literature, comprises the literary works written by the British since about 1850, which settled on the islands since the late 18th century, discovered by AJ Tasman in 1642.

The literature is also shaped by the orally transmitted Māori culture (mythology, philosophy of life and cultic songs) as well as by the literary influences of Australia up to the 19th century.

Beginnings (approx. 1850-1900)

From the point of view of English society, which was shaped by the industrial revolution in the 19th century, rural New Zealand appeared to be a paradisiacal world. The literature written in New Zealand itself, e.g. B. Frederick E. Manings (* 1811, † 1883) diary “Old New Zealand” (1863), reproduced corresponding clichés. It corresponded to the ideas of a first generation of settlers who were brought up on the British model; British history and culture were on the timetables. Local topics did not appear in textbooks or literature.

Replacement of British models and development of independent models (approx. 1900–1930)

According to militarynous, New Zealand writers began to break away from British culture around 1900. As in Australia, with its anti-royalist thrust, interest was directed towards its own traditions and alternative social designs. A younger generation of writers found a forum for discussion, especially in newspapers and magazines. for Māori topics from the point of view of whites (Jane Mander, * 1877, † 1949) and socialist ideas (John A. Lee, * 1891, † 1971; story “Children of the poor”, 1934). Also experimented with poetry in a specifically New Zealand dialect (John Barr, * 1809, † 1889). Only drama, traditionally poorly developed as a genre in New Zealand, was still entirely based on British culture.

After the First World War, novels were increasingly published. In them one broke away from literary subjects of Victorian England, related inter alia. Māori themes such as the armed conflicts around 1870 (William Satchell, * 1859, † 1942, “The greenstone door” [1914]) and took up events from its own colonial past. With K. Mansfield (“Bliss”, 1920; “The garden party”, 1922), an author whose work is strongly European-oriented enjoyed international success.

Connection to international modernism (approx. 1930-1965)

The prose and drama of the period were conservative in theme and style. The theater succeeded in addressing increasingly broad audiences, breaking away from its status as an amateur theater and gaining commercial character. In particular, situation comedies and social dramas were played.

In 1928, the first New Zealand literary magazine “Art in New Zealand”, which was followed by others, created a highly regarded forum for poetry. The young generation of poets – they include, among others. A. Curnow and C. Brasch  - had trained at universities (Victoria University in Wellington, University of Otago in Dunedin, University of Auckland) and also emerged in the role of editors and critics. By 1942 at the latest, on the 300th anniversary of the discovery of New Zealand, they confidently set themselves the goal of fully emancipating New Zealand and its culture as an object worthy of literary description. The representatives of this generation of writers created realistic poetics with reference to regional traditions. After the Second World War, New Zealand literature found extensive international recognition for the first time, including: with F. Sargeson, C. K. Stead and J. Frame as well as the poet Kevin Ireland (* 1933) and the poet F. Adcock . Helen Shaw (* 1913, † 1985) became known for her short stories set in subjective, fantastic worlds.

Reorientation (approx. 1965 until today)

In addition to the works of the still successful authors of the past decades, literary works by members of the Maori advanced from the 1960s and publications on feminist topics in the 1970s (Dinah Hawken, * 1943). In the works of the Māori (H. Tuwhare, K. Hulme ) losses of tradition and values ​​are dealt with. The influence of the United States can be felt among novelists; experiments are carried out in a realistic style and with postmodern narrative structures – albeit somewhat later in international comparison (Marilyn Duckworth, * 1935). In lyric poetry, under the influence of France, works of language poetry increasingly prevailed (F. A dcock; Anne French, * 1956).


An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry, ed. v. V. O’Sullivan (Auckland 1987); The Oxford book of New Zealand short stories, ed. v. same (2004).

New Zealand Literature

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