Landscape, literature and identity : New Zealand late colonial literature as environmental text, 1890-1921
New Zealand's 'late colonial' period, 1890-1921, was a most significant period of environmental transformation, in particular the removal and burning of the bush and its transformation into pasture. This rapid, widespread and highly visible transformation of the landscape was reflected as a major theme of the period's literature. This thesis assesses New Zealand late colonial literature as a source for environmental history. New Zealand late colonial literature, 1890-1921, has been a little-studied, underrated and forgotten period of literature (much of which I have re-evaluated). Using it as an environmental source is a new approach, but one that is extremely rewarding. The literature provides a useful environmental history resource that enhances and provides a useful counterpart to the sometimes fragmentary contemporary sources, offering a wide range of viewpoints as well as a flexibility that cannot be afforded by other historical documents. New Zealand literature of the period 1890-1921 can be read as environmental text in a manner which deepens our understanding of responses to landscape transformation and the growth of national identity. The thesis uses the literature of the period to attempt to understand the complex and often contradictory responses and attitudes to both the natural and transformed New Zealand landscape. Moreover the thesis examines the ways in which the landscape has influenced New Zealanders' ideologies of self-perception and national identity. The influence of the New Zealand landscape (and its transformation) on the creation of a national identity, as evidenced in late-colonial literature, has been fundamental. The initial six chapters cover poetry, fiction, and non-fiction with examples on the ways they can be used as environmental sources. The theme of the transformation of the landscape is central, revealing a range of common attitudes and responses to both wilderness and transformed landscapes. The other central thread traces an emergent national identity, related to both a New Zealand-born generation's affinity with the new landscape and pride in environmental transformation. A chapter on urban landscapes in literature examines the attitudes of New Zealanders to their cities, the adaptation of the imported British 'rural myth', the problematic 'rural-urban paradox' and identifies acceptable discourses in which writers could portray towns and cities in literature. The final chapter provides a seldom attempted comparison of New Zealand literature with its contemporary colonial literatures of Australia and Canada, affirming many trends and attitudes, but highlighting certain unique attitudes to landscape, transformation and identity that arise from different landscapes. Certain geographical, historical and literary factors make New Zealand the ideal study for environmental literature, and a model of global interest.
Advisor: Brooking, Tom; Jones, Lawrence
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Landscapes in literature; Nature in literature; New Zealand literature 19th century Themes, motives; New Zealand literature 20th century Themes, motives; Ecology New Zealand History; Nature Effect of human beings on New Zealand History
Research Type: Thesis