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Poetic (Re)Negotiations of Home in New Zealand Women's Poetry of the 20th Century

Die poetische (Neu)Verhandlung von Heimat und Zuhause in der neuseeländischen Frauenlyrik des 20. Jahrhunderts

  • As the oldest genre in New Zealand literature written in English, poetry always played a significant role in the country's literary debate and was generally considered to be an indicator of the country's cultural advancement. Throughout the 20th century, the question of home, of where it is and what it entails, became a crucial issue in discussing a distinct New Zealand sense of identity and in strengthening its independent cultural status. The establishment of a national sense of home was thus of primary concern, and poetry was regarded as the cultural marker of New Zealand's independence as a nation. In this politically motivated cultural debate, the writing of women was only considered on the margin, largely because their writing was considered too personal and too intimately tied together with daily life, especially domestic life, as to be able to contribute to a larger cultural statement. Such criticism built on gender role stereotypes, like for instance women's roles as mothers and housewives in the 1950s. The strong alignment of women with the home environment is not coincidental but a construct that was, and still is, predominantly shaped by white patriarchal ideology. However, it is in particular women's, both Pakeha and Maori, thorough investigation into the concept of home from within New Zealand's society that bears the potential for revealing a more profound relationship between actual social reality and the poetic imagination. The close reading of selected poems by Ursula Bethell, Mary Stanley, Lauris Edmond and J.C. Sturm in this thesis reveals the ways in which New Zealand women of different backgrounds subvert, transcend and deconstruct such paradigms through their poetic imagination. Bethell, Stanley, Edmond and Sturm position their concepts of home at the crossroads between the public and the private realm. Their poems explore the correspondence between personal and national concerns and assess daily life against the backdrop of New Zealand's social development. Such complex socio-cultural interdependence has not been paid sufficient attention to in literary criticism, largely because a suitable approach to capturing the complexity of this kind of interconnectedness was lacking. With Spaces of Overlap and Spaces of Mediation this thesis presents two critical models that seek to break the tight critical frames in the assessment of poetic concepts of home. Both notions are based on a contextualised approach to the poetic imagination in relation to social reality and seek to carve out the concept of home in its interconnected patterns. Eventually, this approach helps to comprehend the ways in which women's intimate negotiations of home translate into moments of cultural insight and transcend the boundaries of the individual poets' concerns. The focus on women's (re)negotiations of home counteracts the traditionally male perspective on New Zealand poetry and provides a more comprehensive picture of New Zealand's cultural fabric. In highlighting the works of Ursula Bethell, Mary Stanley, Lauris Edmond and J.C. Sturm, this thesis not only emphasises their individual achievements but makes clear that a traditional line of New Zealand women's poetry exists that has been neglected far too long in the estimation of New Zealand's literary history.

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Author:Claudia Duppé
Advisor:Norbert H. Platz
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2006/03/10
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Granting institution:Universität Trier, Fachbereich 2
Date of final exam:2004/11/19
Release Date:2006/03/10
Tag:Bethell; Edmond; J.C.; Lauris; Mary; Stanley; Sturm; Ursula
20th Century; New Zealand; home; women's poetry
GND Keyword:Frauenlyrik; Heimat; Lyrik; Neuseeland; Zuhause
Institutes:Fachbereich 2 / Anglistik
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 82 Englische, altenglische Literaturen / 820 Englische, altenglische Literaturen

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