Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body

By Michelle Keown | Go to book overview

7

Language and the corporeal

Patricia Grace's Baby No-Eyes

Patricia Grace's novel Baby No-Eyes (1998), the main focus of discussion in this chapter, was inspired by a controversial incident involving the mutilation of a miscarried Māori child in a New Zealand hospital. As is the case with Ihimaera's representation of the 1918 influenza pandemic in The Dream Swimmer, Grace interprets the incident as an index of various forms of cultural desecration and appropriation which have followed European colonial incursion into Aotearoa New Zealand. Like Ihimaera, Grace also investigates various forms of Māori resistance to Pākehā cultural and political hegemony, but she engages more specifically with the way in which resistance may be mounted through the manipulation of language itself as a constitutive mode of representation. This chapter investigates the way in which Grace challenges Pākehā cultural and linguistic hegemony by invoking Māori mythological narratives and attitudes to artistic construction, and by using Māori grammatical patterns in order to disrupt the univocal authority of the English language.

Patricia Grace, like Witi Ihimaera, is a founding figure in New Zealand Māori literature. Born in Wellington in 1937 (of Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Ati Awa descent), 1 Grace began to write for publication during her mid-twenties while employed as a primary school teacher in North Auckland. Individual short stories published in Te Ao Hou and the New Zealand Listener were followed by her short story collection Waiariki and Other Stories (1975), the first book-length fiction publication by a Māori woman writer. Her first novel, Mutuwhenua, was published in 1978, followed by a second collection of short stories, The Dream Sleepers, in 1980. Other publications include four short story collections: Electric City and Other Stories (1987), Selected Stories (1991), Collected Stories (1994a) and The Sky People (1994b); four novels: Potiki (1986), Cousins (1992), Baby No-Eyes (1998) and Dogside Story (2001); and several children's books. Grace's literary trajectory has followed a similar pattern to Ihimaera's. While her early writing is characterized by a nostalgic affection for a rapidly disappearing rural communalism-as well as an intention to instil in non-Māori readers a greater understanding of Māori cultural concepts (Grace 1978a:80)-the ideological shift triggered by the Māori

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Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Postcolonial Dystopias 16
  • 2 - 'Gauguin is Dead' 38
  • 3 - Purifying the Abject Body 61
  • 4 - Alistair Te Ariki Campbell 84
  • 5 - Remoulding the Body Politic 102
  • 6 - Disease, Colonialism and the National 'Body' 127
  • 7 - Language and the Corporeal 149
  • 8 - The Narcissistic Body: 170
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 199
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 229
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