“The Much Wished-For Shore”: Nationalism and Utopianism in New Zealand Literature: 1817-1973.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines the relationship between utopianism and nationalism in New Zealand literature between 1817 and 1973. My research utilises the definition of both the utopia and the nation as “imagined” or “imaginary” communities (to use Benedict Anderson and Phillip Wegner’s terms), in demonstrating how they function as interdependent concepts in colonial New Zealand literature. Specifically, my research focuses on how a dominant discourse of Pākehā nationalism is influenced by the desires of colonial settlement. There is an identifiable tradition in which New Zealand is imagined as a utopian space with an ambivalence towards modernity. The settler nation is defined subjectively by different authors, retaining, however, a tradition of excluding groups which are not compatible with the authors’ utopian projections. This exclusion may be based on race, gender, class, political views or other categorisations. I view this tradition as a dialectic of changing desires and utopian visions, based on changing historical contexts, but always engaged with the central attempt to speculate the possibilities that New Zealand holds as a utopia for Anglocentric settlement. The thesis is divided into four chapters, each based on the comparison of two texts from a certain period. The first chapter compares two texts of early nineteenth century British settlement, J.L. Nicholas’ Narrative of Voyage to New Zealand (1817) and E.J. Wakefield’s Adventure in New Zealand (1845). The second chapter examines Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) and Julius Vogel’s Anno Domini 2000 (1889). The third chapter focuses on Robin Hyde’s Wednesday’s Children (1936) and John Mulgan’s Man Alone (1939). My final chapter argues that the end of this mode of writing is signalled by Smith’s Dream (1971 rev. 1973) by C.K. Stead and Intensive Care (1970) by Janet Frame, which demonstrate a changing approach to the tradition. After this point, other postcolonial voices emerge and the attempted homogeneity of settler utopianism is disrupted.