Where to from Here? Contemporary New Zealand Women's Fiction

By Bergmann, Laurel | Hecate, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Where to from Here? Contemporary New Zealand Women's Fiction


Bergmann, Laurel, Hecate


The eighties has been the decade of women's fiction in New Zealand. It is true that this period has also seen an "explosion" of local literary activity in general, and especially of local publishing, whose impact has only been approached by the "germinal period" of the institutionalisation of New Zealand literature during the forties. During the eighties, however, women writers were for the first time able to compete on equal terms in this new flurry of literary activity. Women took advantage of the empowering force of the "second wave" feminist movement, with renewed confidence in the standpoints from which they wrote, and in their collective ability to take on the entrenched institutions that had orchestrated their exclusion.

Novels like Sue McAuley's Other Halves (1982) established that there was a local market for women's writing. The greatest impetus, however, came from the phenomenon of Keri Hulme's the bone people. After initial difficulties finding a publisher, this novel was taken up by a local, "amateur" collective (Spiral), and became an overnight success in New Zealand. With the award of the Booker prize the following year, this success extended to the international scene, and the bone people was launched as a legend. The significance of this legend was threefold: it established that small local publishing could take on the "big league"; that women, and more specifically, Maori women, could write novels that even the mainstream considered superb; and that they could be commodified as "hot property," as much because as in spite of their politically challenging material.

The establishment of the New Women's Press in 1982 was an important part of the process of legitimation of women fiction writers. Though it did not take long for known women writers to be taken up by the newly-established local branches of multinationals (especially by Penguin), New Women's Press remained vital in providing opportunities to new writers, most particularly through a series of anthologies(1) that included writing by unknowns along with that of established authors. It was also instrumental in opening the field of women's work to other audiences and genres. Women writing for children and young adults soon came to dominate the field locally, and to establish an international readership. Another important area of access for women's writing was the development of university presses, Victoria University Press dominating the field.

Essential to this development was government patronage through the literature board of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council. With a history similar to that of its counterpart in Australia, the literature board received enhanced finance during the eighties, and was able to fund both more writers and more publishing. While it does not seem to have had a policy of "equal access" written into its constitution, in practice it was more even-handed than other cultural institutions - especially in the earlier period, when many of these were all but closed to women. Particularly vital was its assistance to small, independent publishers, including the New Women's Press, which depended to a very great degree on publishing grants. It is difficult to find a woman's text published in this period that does not bear the inscription: "Published with the assistance of the Literature Programme of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand."

It has taken somewhat longer for women's writing to gain a place in the New Zealand academy, where New Zealand writing has not gained the secure foothold that Australian literature has in Australian English departments. Similarly, and as a corollary, little cognisance was taken of the new writing in literary journals;(2) and women writers have not been equally represented in the receipt of literary awards until more recently. This experience has been echoed in Australia, though change began to manifest itself here a little earlier.

Two essential links in the distribution of women's writing have been the Women's Book Festival, under the auspices (until recently) of Penny Hanson, and Carol Beu's Women's Book Shop. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Where to from Here? Contemporary New Zealand Women's Fiction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.