The literature of Maoriland, as New Zealand was popularly known from the 1880s to the beginning of the First World War, remains the 'black hole' in New Zealand's literary memory. In the 1930s Allen Curnow and Denis Glover associated the Maoriland writers with sentiment, gentility and colonial deference. Today, Maoriland evokes a world of saccharine fantasy in which Maori warriors in heroic attitudes and Maori maidens in seductive ones inhabited outmoded Victorian literary forms, while at the same time the business of settlement sidelined and dispossessed actual Maori. Maoriland: New Zealand Literature 1872-1914 argues that such glib dismissals of the past do disservice to the present, seeing in the writing of Maoriland something more complex and more diverse: the beginnings of a self-consciously New Zealand literature, which adapts European literary forms to the new place. In this period are the origins of much of New Zealand's progressive social legislation, the roots of modern feminism, the establishment of ways in which we regard the natural world, and the manufacture of the defining roles by which we still enact our bicultural relations.
This is the first book to examine a crucial period in the shaping of New Zealand literature. It connects the cultural forms of Maoriland to both larger patterns of empire and contemporary criticism, looking at the writing in all its complexities, contradictions and evasions.
Jane Staffordis asenior lecturerin the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. She is the author of "Katherine Mansfield's Men." Mark Williams is an associate professor of English at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is the author of "Leaving the Highway" and "Patrick White "and the coeditor of several anthologies of New Zealand poetry."