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Introduction to the
Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Using the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature


The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature is designed to provide information and pleasure to anyone with an interest in New Zealand or in literature. For those with special interests in New Zealand literature and related fields, it is intended to be a reference source of a full and unprecedented kind. The contents have been shaped in part by this lack of precedent. Although the Oxford Companion series supplied ample guidance for general procedure, the editors were still in a situation that was doubly novel. Scholarship in New Zealand literature is far from fully established; very many of the authors and topics we chose for entries have simply never been written about before. The book has also been prepared at a time when definitions of literature worldwide have been expanding dramatically. We have sought to take account of this new inclusiveness at the same time as charting parts even of the main literary stream. Such a range of information pertaining to New Zealand literature has never before been assembled in one place.

The guiding principle has nevertheless been simple. We have sought to create a Companion; not a dictionary or bibliography or history or a ranking of writers, but a reference book which is friendly as well as reliable, which makes established and unfamiliar facts readily accessible, which is quick and simple to use as well as alluring to browse at leisure. Our main instructions to the contributors were to establish all facts from primary sources, to communicate their own enthusiasm for their subjects, and to write in their own voice.

Some matters of policy should be declared. First, this Companion follows closely on the publication of the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991, 1998). Our contributors have drawn extensively and gratefully on that work, but the Companion has been consciously designed to complement and not replicate the History. The Companion therefore contains no surveys of literary genres, no overview essays on such topics as Maori writing, publishing or literary criticism, no formal bibliography. If such things are missed, they will usually be found in the History. Where the same ground is inevitably covered, as in discussions of the achievement of major writers, it is done from different viewpoints, and by different commentators. The authors of the History’s chapters do not (with one special-case exception) write on the same subject matter for the Companion. More importantly, the Companion goes well beyond the History in scope. There are separate, specially researched entries on dozens of authors and texts that are absent from the History, or mentioned only in passing in its genre-centred surveys. The smallness of New Zealand’s literature by most international comparisons has enabled this Companion to give many obscure or reputedly minor figures and works their two or three hundred words of fame; and thus to give our readers a basis for making their own choices and judgments. This first Companion should err, we decided, in the direction of inclusiveness.

Another challenge has been to give recognition to the range of literature in a nation that has more than one official language and more than one distinct cultural tradition. There are 125 entries on Maori writers, texts and topics, and several on Pacific topics, including a reminder that New Zealand has more than two languages (see ‘Tokelau’). While many of these entries are necessarily concerned with texts in English, and while the entries themselves are written in English, the significance and accomplishment of literature (primarily in oral forms) in Maori have been recognised to the best of our ability. On several occasions the different circumstances that still apply to publication by Mäori writers have caused the editors to waive our standard requirement that authors should have published at least two books to be considered for inclusion.

The core of this, as of all literary Oxford Companions, is the author and title entries: 680 authors and 110 titles are discussed in entries that range from one hundred to over two thousand words. The space allocated indicates judgments about their relative importance in a general and approximate but not a rigid way. Some writers’ lives and some texts can be more concisely summarised than others, and some contributors garnered new material that was too interesting to reject because of anxieties over relative word-count. Contribu¬tors also made different decisions about the division of material between author and title entries; we accepted their judgments, apart from ensuring that there are entries, or at least cross-references, for all titles that have acquired resonance in their own right.

Though coverage is thus extensive, it could not be comprehensive. The more inclusive you are, the more has to be left out. Writing has been such an exuberant and prolific activity in New Zealand that selection has been inevitable. There are more novelists, dramatists and poets for readers to discover, and their absence here under separate entries (for many do appear in the general articles) is normally to avoid repetitiveness in representing areas of peripheral literary interest.

Similarly, while it seemed essential to include living writers, and to make those entries as up to date as possible, full coverage and right judgments there are difficult to achieve. The entries were received and edited over a three-year period, from 1994. Every effort has been made to acknowledge newly emerged writers and to mention very recent publications, but from late 1996 to 1998 this could be only by title, without any accompanying comment.

We decided also to give recognition to many more various kinds of writing than have traditionally been placed alongside a nation’s major works of drama, fiction and poetry. There will be surprises, which we will not spoil. In such areas, however, even more rigorous choices had to be made. New Zealand has produced far more film, radio and television writers, sports writers, journalists, historians and rock-music lyricists than are included, and far more visual artists and musicians whose work connects with literature than the dozen or so of each who have entries. Our intention in these areas was to acknowledge their place in the full picture of the nation’s literature, and in the priorities of the public. The choices we then had to make may be debatable, but they have never been capricious or made without advice. The same applies, for instance, to the twelve entries on New Zealand’s connections with other national literatures. We regret the omission of India, Russia, Spain and others, but we drew the line where it seemed best to be drawn. Entries on publishers, libraries, collectors, newspapers, regions and many others are subject to the same necessary selectiveness.

All these are part of our effort to contextualise New Zealand literature in illuminating ways. There are also entries on writers born in New Zealand (e.g. Hugh Walpole), or who lived there for a while (e.g. Fay Weldon), or who paid a memorable visit (e.g. Bernard Shaw), or whose work has some place, however indirect, in New Zealand’s literary history (e.g. Shakespeare, Melville, Verne, Patrick White). We are not appropriating these names, nor affirming some new definition of a national literature; they simply seemed valuable for the kind of interesting resource a Companion should be. For the same reason there are entries on the meaning and literary provenance of words which recur in literature but will be strange to readers who have not lived in New Zealand: ‘bush’, ‘mana’, ‘station’, ‘tangi’.

In some areas, however, the selections are intended to be generous. Twenty-two of Katherine Mansfield’s stories are discussed in some detail, in addition to an authoritative overview essay and entries on her iconic significance and on writers whose work connects with hers (Carco, Lawrence, Murry). Every significant title by Janet Frame and Allen Curnow has a separate entry, for a Companion should help readers to gain access to important (and sometimes difficult) works. Other writers receive similar if less complete treatment, and the most frequently anthologised short stories have separate entries.

With children’s literature (75 entries) and literary periodicals (123 entries), too, the selections and the research on which they are based almost amount to mini-Companions in their own right. The time will come, indeed, for such books, and for those on New Zealand theatre, film and television, art and music. This Companion is aware of preparing the ground as well as space, time and the availability of qualified contributors permitted. The time will also come for full books on many topics which are opened up by our entries—literature and war, literature and music, Shakespeare in New Zealand, censorship, landscape, disability, goldmining, sport and many more. Our contributors invariably found more material than there was space to use, but the role of a Companion is to explore such issues, not exhaust them.

One omission may be noticed by users of other Companions to literature: there are no entries on created literary characters. No Odysseus, Ophelia, Pickwick or Huck Finn has yet claimed a place in the national imagination. We leave readers to meditate on why the only created characters we felt impelled to list as cross-references were Barbara, Gus Tomlins, Hairy Maclary and Fred Dagg. (Other entries recognise the iconic importance of Jack Lovelock, Katherine Mansfield and Robert Muldoon, but that is a different kind of cultural process.)

A last point returns us to the user-friendliness or companionability this book aspires to. New Zealand literature has some reputation for an unremitting dourness, which New Zealand literary scholarship seems to have attempted to emulate. In preparing this volume, we have very often encountered wit, fun, absurdity, eccentricity, beauty, eloquence, passion and sheer brilliance. The surprise and admiration which we and our contributors so often felt are, we hope, captured in the entries that follow.

Roger Robinson
Nelson Wattie

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The principal acknowledgment for what has been an essentially collaborative work must go to the 94 individual contributors. Their time and expertise were willingly given, often under many competing demands, almost entirely for the sake of participating in a project of value to New Zealand literature. Their names are given in the list of contributors below.

We offer special thanks, however, to those who took on an exceptional number of entries, or responsibility for an area of literature, or who kindly accepted extra entries at a time when completion became urgent: Christina Barton, David Carnegie, Les Cleveland, Simon Garrett, Stephen Hamilton, Diane Hebley, Lawrence Jones, Andrew Mason, Paul Millar, Pauline Neale, Harry Orsman, Peter Simpson, Terry Sturm, John M. Thomson and Kim Worthington.

Ideas, suggestions, references and help of all sorts have come from almost all the contributors, many other friends and directly and indirectly from authorities on many areas of New Zealand literature. These are too far numerous to name in full (as are those to whom we would wish to apologise for inflicting our obsession on them); but various particular acknowledgments for aspects of the book’s contents are due to Ken Arvidson, Dr R.W. Bailey, William Broughton, Ray Copland, David Dowling, Brian Easton, Ray Grover, Diane Hebley, Kevin Ireland, Carole Legge, Paul Millar, Harry Orsman, Harry Ricketts, Jack Shallcrass, Peter Simpson, Lyman Tower Sargent and Peter Whiteford.

The entries relating to Maori literature, language, culture and authors are to an even greater extent the result of collaborative effort. The name under the entry is often that of the scribe rather than the source of the information given. Consultation with the Maori community has been ongoing and extensive: more extensive than even we understand, because of widespread discussion of matters we may have raised with one individual. Those to whom we know we are most indebted are Angela Ballara, Robin Rangihuia Bargh, Jon Battista, George Bertos, Jenifer Curnow, Witi Ihimaera, Wiremu Kaa, Tïmoti S. Käretu, Bernie Kernot, Aorewa McLeod, Jane McRae, Margaret Orbell, Charles Royal, Miria Simpson and Ngähuia Te Awekotuku; and all at the Mäori Language Commission.

Similarly, for advice and material relating to Pacific writing, we are indebted to Loimata Iupati, Don Long, Albert Wendt, Mele Wendt and Briar Wood.

Anne French and Vincent O’Sullivan contributed crucially to the concept and early development of the book, when Elizabeth Marsden was also very helpful.

At the later stages, the contribution of Simon Cauchi went much deeper than the role of copy editor usually implies. The book reflects his profound and careful scholarship in many crucial ways.

Similarly, the informed and constructive interest taken by Linda Cassells made her a valued adviser as well as a supportive publisher.

The huge labour of compiling the book’s text in digital form has been lightened by vital help from Helen Heazlewood of Victoria University and Diana Patterson of Oxford University Press; similar assistance has been given by Ruth Gay and Jim Baltaxe of Victoria University, and by David Norton, who was also a supportive Head of School through most of the project.

Published sources for information are far too numerous to list, though every effort has been made to acknowledge direct indebtedness within the text. The most constant resources for the editors have been The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. Terry Sturm; New Zealand National Bibliography to the Year 1960, ed. A.G. Bagnall; the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (ed. W.H. Oliver and Claudia Orange); E.H. McCormick, New Zealand Literature: A Survey; Joan Stevens, The New Zealand Novel 1860–1965; Patrick Evans, The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature; Who’s Who in New Zealand, ed. Max Lambert; New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa, ed. Alister Taylor; The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, ed. William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton and Barry Andrews; and the pages of Landfall, Islands, the NZ Listener, the Journal of New Zealand Literature and New Zealand Books.

Almost one hundred contributors, several based overseas, will have used the resources of more libraries than the editors could even estimate. Certainly every academic collection in New Zealand and many public libraries have contributed to this work. Again, we can acknowledge by name only those which the editors themselves have most constantly used: most especially the Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand National Library (New Zealand Collection) and Victoria University Library; also the Hocken Library, British Library, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), New York Public Library and Chapin Library, Williams College, Mass.

We most gratefully acknowledge the crucial financial support generously given by the Lottery Grants Board, Victoria University of Wellington, and Creative New Zealand.

We also acknowledge with gratitude the hospitality and support of Victoria Uni¬versity of Wellington, especially its School of English, Film and Theatre; and the support and patience of our colleagues, families and friends, most especially of all Kathrine Switzer and Elfi Wattie.


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(listed in alphabetical order of their initials, as shown at the foot of each entry)
AB - Angela Ballara, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Wellington
AL - Alan Loney, Holloway Press, University of Auckland
Ala - Alison Laurie, Victoria University of Wellington
AM - Andrew Mason, Wellington
AMcL - Aorewa McLeod, University of Auckland
AR - Alan Riach, University of Waikato
AT - Allan Thomas, Victoria University of Wellington
BE - Brian Easton, Wellington
BS - Brent Southgate, Learning Media, Wellington
BW - Briar Wood, University of North London
CB - Christina Barton, Victoria University of Wellington
CL - Carol Legge, Victoria University of Wellington
CM - Christiane Mortelier, Wellington
CR - Charles Royal, Te Wänanga o Raukawa, Ötaki
DB - Dale Benson, University of Otago
DC - David Carnegie, Victoria University of Wellington
DD - David Dowling, University of Northern British Columbia
DFD - D.F. Dugdale, The Law Commission
DG - David Groves, Victoria University of Wellington
DH - Diane Hebley, Taradale
DK - Diana Knowles, Auckland
DL - Don Long, Learning Media, Wellington
DM - David Mackay, Victoria University of Wellington
DMcE - Dennis McEldowney, Auckland
EB - Edmund Bohan, Christchurch
EC - Elizabeth Caffin, Auckland University Press
EM - Elizabeth Marsden, Taupo
EN - Emma Neale, University of London
FB - Fergus Barrowman, Victoria University Press
GB - Gillian Boddy, Victoria University of Wellington
HM - Heather Murray, Journal of New Zealand Literature, Dunedin
HMcQ - Harvey McQueen, Wellington
HO - Harry Orsman, Victoria University of Wellington
HR - Heather Roberts, Wellington
HRi - Harry Ricketts, Victoria University of Wellington
HRo - Hugh Roberts, University of California, Irvine
HT - Heidi Thomson, Victoria University of Wellington
IR - Ian Richards, Tottori National University, Japan
JB - Judith Binney, University of Auckland
JBa - Jon Battista, University of Auckland
JBd - James Braund, University of Auckland
JC - Jenifer Curnow, Auckland
JE - Juniper Ellis, Loyola College, Baltimore
JH - Janet Hughes, Victoria University of Wellington
JMcC - Janet McCallum, Wellington
JMcR - Jane McRae, University of Auckland
JMT - John Mansfield Thomson, Wellington
JS - Jane Stafford, Victoria University of Wellington
JT - James Traue, Wellington
JW - Janet Wilson, University of Otago
KA - Ken Arvidson, University of Waikato
KI - Kevin Ireland, Auckland
KJ - Kai Jensen, Hamilton
KO - Keith Ovenden, Warsaw, Poland
KWa - Kathryn Walls, Victoria University of Wellington
KWo - Kim Worthington, Victoria University of Wellington
LC - Les Cleveland, Wellington
LI - Loimata Iupati, Porirua
LJ - Lawrence Jones, University of Otago
LTS - Lyman Tower Sargent, University of Missouri, St Louis
MH - Mark Houlahan, University of Waikato
MPJ - MacDonald P. Jackson, University of Auckland
NN Nina Nola, University of Auckland
NW - Nelson Wattie, Victoria University of Wellington
NWr - Niel Wright, Wellington
NWt - Noel Waite, Auckland
PB - Peter Beatson, Massey University
PE - Patrick Evans, University of Canterbury
PM - Paul Millar, Victoria University of Wellington
PMn - Phillip Mann, Victoria University of Wellington
PN - Pauline Neale, Wellington
PP - Peter Pierce, James Cook University of North Queensland
PS - Peter Simpson, University of Auckland
PW - Peter Whiteford, Victoria University of Wellington
RC - Ralph Crane, University of Waikato
RCo - Richard Corballis, Massey University
RCp - Ray Copland, Christchurch
RCr - Ronda Cooper, Wellington
RG - Ray Grover, Wellington
RR - Roger Robinson, Victoria University of Wellington
RRB - Robyn Rangihuia Bargh, Huia Publishers, Wellington
SG - Simon Garrett, Learning Media, Wellington
SH - Stephen Hamilton, Alexander Turnbull Library
SS - Sarah Shieff, University of Waikato
SSa - Sarah Sandley, Sydney
SSh - Sydney Shep, Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University of Wellington
SW - Susan Wild, Victoria University of Wellington
TD - Tony Deverson, University of Canterbury
TS - Terry Sturm, University of Auckland
VO - Vincent O’Sullivan, Victoria University of Wellington
WB - William Broughton, Massey University
WBa - Winifred Bauer, Victoria University of Wellington
WHN - William H. New, University of British Columbia
WS - Bill Sewell, Wellington

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Using the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Entries are in alphabetical order, including personal names, titles, words and general topics. Definite and indefinite articles are disregarded in establishing the order. Headwords for authors are given in the form in which they most usually publish, and alphabetised in that form; other names are given in the text where they are of literary significance. Where there is doubt or a variant form, a cross-reference is given (e.g. Macmillan Brown, John, see Brown, John Macmillan). Names such as Du Fresne are placed under Du (preceding Duckworth); names in the Maori form such as Te Whatahoro are under Te (preceding Templeton); names beginning with Mac or Mc are all treated as if spelt Mac. Personal surnames are in bold capitals (e.g. FRAME, Janet); works published as separate titles are in bold italics (e.g. Greenstone Door, The, and Ao Hou, Te); titles not published separately, such as poems or short stories, are in bold within quotation marks (e.g. ‘Doll’s House, The’; but note Prelude, which was published as a separate title). Readers and playgoers will be aware of the difficulty of establishing performance or publication details for some plays. The style stated above is followed and dates given for both first performance and publication so far as possible.

The most important aspect of this book’s style is the use of the asterisk before a word in the text, to designate a cross-reference, ‘q.v.’ or ‘see’. These have been quite fully used, since this Companion is designed to be read in an interconnected manner as well as to be a reference source on particular items and a venue for pleasurable random browsing. Thus few entries are wholly self-contained. The entry on an author will refer the reader by asterisk to entries on individual titles by that author (where plot summary, publication details, etc., may be found), and to other pertinent topics; the entries on titles and topics, equally, refer the reader to relevant author entries, where fuller personal information is given. Words such as ‘bush’ or ‘waiata’ are habitually asterisked, since readers may be encountering them for the first time and need advice that a full exposition is provided. The same applies to key topics such as ‘gold’, ‘landscape’ or ‘music’; we wish readers to know that fuller essays on such topics are provided within these pages. The asterisks are therefore intended both to advise that information is provided pertinent to the entry being read and to lead the reader on to other matters of related interest. The reader of entries on Denis Glover, Ian Milner or the Caxton Press, for instance, will thus find a fuller version of the story of Oriflamme under that entry; and may be led from there to relevant entries on Phoenix, Bob Lowry, the Press or censorship. In each entry, an asterisk is used only on the first occasion that a particular name, title, word or topic is mentioned. Sometimes an ¬asterisk is attached to an adjectival or other derived form; thus ‘*Australian’ and ‘*Irish’, for example, refer to the articles on ‘Australia’ and ‘Ireland’, and ‘*goldfields’ to that on ‘gold’.

Maori vowels which properly now take a macron have been so treated, but macrons have not been added to quotations or titles (e.g. The Maori King) which predate this practice.

A very few living writers asked that some personal details, such as year of birth, not be stated; the editors respected this preference. The formal cut-off date for the inclusion of material was 30 June 1997, but in many instances subsequent material has been briefly noted.

In general abbreviations have been sparingly used, and the full form is used wherever it is of significance to the entry. The abbreviation NZ is generally used only where that is the form in a title or quotation, except that the New Zealand Listener is generally shown as NZ Listener. The only other frequent abbreviations are OHNZLE, BHS, GHS and GS.

APRA - Australasian Performing Right Association
ATL - Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library
AUP - Auckland University Press
BA - Bachelor of Arts
BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation
BHS - Boys’ High School
BMus - Bachelor of Music
BSc - Bachelor of Science
c. - circa, about
CPA - Communist Party of Australia
Dip - Diploma (e.g. of Fine Arts)
DLit - Doctor of Literature (Waikato)
DLitt - Doctor of Literature
DNZB - Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
DPhil - Doctor of Philosophy (Oxford)
ed. - editor, or edited by
edn - edition
ESOL - English as a Second Language
GHS - Girls’ High School
GS - Grammar School
GSO 3 (I) - General Staff Officer, Grade 3, Intelligence
JNZL - Journal of New Zealand Literature
LittD - Doctor of Literature
MA - Master of Arts
MBE - Member of the Order of the British Empire
MHR - Member of the House of Representatives
MP - Member of Parliament
No. or no. - Number or number
NZBC - New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation
NZE - New Zealand English
NZEF - New Zealand Expeditionary Force
NZPA - New Zealand Press Association
NZSO - New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
OBE - Officer of the Order of the British Empire
OCTU - Officer Cadets Training Unit
ODT - Otago Daily Times
OHNZLE - The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English
OUP - Oxford University Press
PEN - Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists: - see entry
PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
prod. - produced (of a play)
pub. - Published
rev. - revised
Rev. - Reverend
rpt. - Reprinted
RN - Royal Navy
RNZAF - Royal New Zealand Air Force
RSA - Returned Services Association
SF - science fiction
TLS - Times Literary Supplement
trans. - translation, or translated by
UK - United Kingdom
USA - United States of America
Vol. or vol. - Volume or volume
VUP - Victoria University Press

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