The poetry and prose of Archibald and James K. Baxter : Like father, like son?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The literature of James K. Baxter features many thematic and stylistic parallels with that of his father, Archibald. The material used in this thesis, most of which is previously unpublished, will illustrate how this is apparent from the outset of James's literary career. Substantial use is also made of a personal interview conducted with James's brother, Terence. Archie's unpublished work contains many expressions of his beliefs and principles, and attention to these is essential in order to achieve a better understanding, not only of his own literature, but also to appreciate how these beliefs came to be realised in James's verse from a very early period. Archie's poetry, traditionally ignored by critical opinion, will be discussed in some detail, particularly in relation to theme and style. Much of his verse is Romantic, while the remainder is often an expression of pacifist or socialist beliefs. A significant amount of James's early verse reiterates these beliefs also, as the World War II period had a dramatic effect on him and coincided with the beginning of his literary career. Archie's unpublished, factually based novel is important to this discussion as it is evidence that a tradition of ancestral mythology was well established by previous Baxter generations. Therefore James, rather than beginning this mythology himself, as has been thought, actually had a substantial body of myth and legend at his disposal should he choose to use it His posthumously published novel, Horse, is not only indebted to this legacy, but also illustrates his conscious desire to make himself a part of that same mythology. The extent and obvious nature of many literary parallels and similarities in work of Archie and James highlight the fact that, although much of Archie's material remains unpublished, it is a useful source for developing a greater understanding of James's literature.