"a stimulating collection that challenges the myths that have sustained New Zealand national identity"
(Anne Maxwell, University of Melbourne, Australia)
fills a gap in our understanding of New Zealand culture. This anthology
offers fascinating perspectives on the importance of the landscape - a
pastoral dream and potential nightmare. A must for any teacher of New
(Mette Weisberg, Danish Association of Teachers of English)
This anthology grew out of the New Zealand Study Group's
1998 conference held at New Zealand House, London, on 3 June. Speakers
were invited to question the notion that New Zealand is a pastoral
Roy Smith's account of the leading part played by New Zealand
in the anti-nuclear movement in the Pacific region begins the anthology.
It charts the various factors which led to the country's declaration,
in 1984, that it was a 'nuclear free' state, and illustrates the
difficulties experienced by New Zealand in the face of global nuclear
threat. Moving from the global to the local, Maria Wickens discusses
how contemporary writers have faced up to the need to recognise
that the country has social and economic problems much as any other
modern state, and are ready to explore such problems in detail.
The dysfunctional family, one of Wickens's examples of this new
focus, is further explored by David Callahan in relation to a range
of films, and he concludes that the ideal of a functional family
is difficult to discern in New Zealand cinema.
Michelle Keown shows how prominent Maori writers have
come to see the discourse of a special relationship with the land
as part of a wider, politically informed vision for the future.
Thomas Spooner also discusses Once Were Warriors (1994),
and his study of the filmed version identifies how its gritty, yet
chic, urban realism is influenced by African American directors.
The depiction of the outright hostility of the environment to human
occupation is another way of exploring current cultural issues.
This is the premise of Jonathan Rayner's account of Vincent Ward's
New Zealand films, which draw upon forbidding landscapes to point
to the precariousness of settler culture, as well as contemporary
uncertainties of New Zealand identity on both a personal and national
level. Estella Tincknell finds a similarly hostile environment in
her study of The Piano (1993), though here it functions less
as a direct metaphor for crises of identity than as part of a wider,
intricate appropriation of the tropes of European Gothic literature.
The search for a self which is in some sense authentic
is enacted by the New Zealand road movie. Ian Conrich shows how
these films depict counter-cultural, Pakeha male behaviour, a defiance
of authority and resistance to small-town conformism. The problematic
nature of New Zealand identity is to be found here as well, for
travel is seen to be a solution for those who are unable to settle.
New Zealand offers vast, open spaces, and these can be employed
as a variety of filmmaking locations. Andrea Wright considers the
productions of Willow (1988) and Peter Jackson's The Lord
of the Rings trilogy, which have utilised the land's potential
to create a Tolkienesque 'other world'.
This collection offers a
wide range of standpoints upon the significance of the land for
the symbolic and political construction of New Zealand. In the end,
it is perhaps this diversity which indicates the land's enduring
place in such debates.
The front cover illustration for this book is one of many striking examples of stained glass work by the artist Kathy Shaw.
More on Kathy Shaw's work