Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature


School of the Arts, English and Media


This thesis examines the nature of successive changes across the fictional output of Patricia Grace. Transformations are explored from three perspectives. One perspective is the relationship between Grace’s novels and collections of short stories. Each of Grace’s first four novels (Mutuwhenua, Potiki, Cousins, Baby No-Eyes) is preceded by a collection of short stories (Waiariki, The Dream Sleepers and other stories, Electric City and other stories, The Sky People). The thesis argues that there is an adaptive progression from each set of stories to the subsequent novel. In the appendix to this thesis is an interview I conducted with Grace in Wellington in 2009. In the interview, Grace acknowledged this creative link.

The second aspect of progressive change occurs in Grace’s working with Māori concepts of change and transformation. The rich symbolism of the spiral and the recurrent motifs of plants and trees such as flax, ferns and the pohutukawa are analysed. This thesis shows that Māori mythology is an important subtext that is developed across Grace’s work. The term ‘given stories’ used in Potiki is a reference to this mythology as a whole, as explained by Grace in an email included in the appendix. The distinction that Grace draws between the earlier ‘given stories’ and the myth of Mutuwhenua is examined and analysed in regard to concepts of change. In her writings, Māori mythology is revealed to be a dynamic and living tradition that is shaped by everyday life.

The third perspective on change is the relationship between Māori and Pakeha culture. A focus of this analysis is Grace’s engagement with the teachings, stories and mythology of Christianity. As such, there is an emphasis in this thesis on concepts of the sacred and spirituality. In Grace’s work this engagement with Christianity and the church occurs in the context of Māori mythology and everyday life. The inclusiveness evident in her novels and short stories is analysed using the postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha and his notions of hybridity and the third space. This is compared to its engagement with the writer and essayist Wilson Harris and his notion of the wholeness of vision emerging from the fragmentation of postcolonial societies.