Year

2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Creative Arts

Abstract

Fifteen New Zealand novels, published between 1983 and 2000, are considered with regard to their representation of the magical child figure. The child is a benign and regenerative figure in the earlier works in this period, with its magical qualities used to heighten its role in a redemptive progression towards the reform of social structures depicted as damaging of cultural and environmental heritage. Later in the period the regenerative possibilities offered by the child diminish, as the relationship between the individual child and adult society diversifies. Where a clear adult/child dichotomy in the early works renders the child as essentially positive and life-giving, the later, more complex field renders the child as less symbolically powerful, more individually threatening and less physically and characteristically distinct from the adult. The novels examined are Keri Hulme’s the bone people, Patricia Grace’s Potiki, Cousins and Baby No Eyes, Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider, The Matriarch and The Dream Swimmer, Rachel McAlpine’s The Limits of Green, Fiona Farrell’s The Skinny Louie Book, Elizabeth Knox’s Treasure, Sue Reidy’s The Visitation, John Cranna’s Arena, Anne Kennedy’s A Boy and His Uncle, Anthony McCarten’s Spinners and Peter Hawes’s A Dream of Nikau Jam. The novels are considered within the context of the history of the child character in literature, and particularly of the thematic traditions surrounding child characters throughout twentieth century New Zealand literature. The simultaneous vitality and vulnerability of the child figure, and the transcendent qualities of the magical child, are found to be critical to its construction. These qualities are examined through the Crawford 9 novels’ representations of filiation, nationhood and in the persistent construction of a symbolic relationship between the magical child and various manifestations of a metaphysical void.

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