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The Puritan Paradox The Puritan Legacy in the Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life of New Zealand, Focusing Primarily on the Works of Novelists Writing Between 1862 and 1940.

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dc.contributor.author Moffat, Kirstine E.
dc.date.accessioned 2008-07-29T03:04:44Z
dc.date.accessioned 2022-10-25T04:55:49Z
dc.date.available 2008-07-29T03:04:44Z
dc.date.available 2022-10-25T04:55:49Z
dc.date.copyright 1999
dc.date.issued 1999
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.wgtn.ac.nz/handle/123456789/23219
dc.description.abstract The broad contention of this thesis, that Puritanism is a dominant social, cultural, and literary influence in New Zealand, is supported by statements made by a range of social historians, popular polemical writers, and literary critics writing during the last fifty years. For example, Gordon McLauchlan comments that "a strong strain of puritanism runs through the New Zealand character", Bill Pearson asserts that "we are the most puritan country in the world", and Lawrence Jones writes that "Puritanism has been a consistent concern of New Zealand writers."1 Flowing from this general claim are three specific contentions. Firstly, the thesis argues that Puritanism is a complex phenomenon, consisting of antithetical elements. It is an historical force which has enduring influence. It is a body of theological principles, but also a secular code of conduct. It is, in both its theological and secular forms, conservative and authoritarian, yet radical and liberating. Secondly, it is asserted that the Puritan legacy in New Zealand reflects this complexity. Puritanism was imported to New Zealand in both its theological and its secular forms. The radical/conservative dichotomy is also marked in the New Zealand environment. Finally, it is claimed that in the literary sphere Puritanism has been a constant influence since the publication of Mrs J.E. Aylmer's Distant Homes: or the Graham Family in New Zealand in 1862 and has inspired both pro-Puritan eulogies and anti-Puritan reactions. These specific contentions do not meet with the same degree of critical support as the general claim about the Puritan influence. When historians and critics such as McLauchlan and Pearson speak of Puritanism, they do not refer to the theological creed and social vision of the English Puritans or the Pilgrim Fathers, but only to a debased, secularised, conservative form of Puritanism. McLauchlan describes Puritanism as "anguished self-flagellation", Pearson defines it as "a contempt for love, a sour spirit, a denial of life itself", and James K. Baxter regards it as an "austere anti-aesthetic angel".2 If social historians and literary critics define Puritanism in a simplistic way, concentrating on the secular, negative elements, they also restrict its literary relevance. Puritanism is regarded as a force which authors react against. Robert Chapman highlights the prevailing critical perception when he comments that "the attitude which the New Zealand writer takes to his society...[is] based on...an attack on the distortion produced by an irrelevant puritanism of misplaced demands and guilts."3 Critics writing about this anti-Puritan New Zealand literary tradition herald Frank Sargeson as the central anti-Puritan figure and focus primarily on post-1940 New Zealand authors. This thesis takes issue with the suggestion that Puritanism is solely a damaging social force and the claim that New Zealand literary responses to Puritanism are wholly negative. It also challenges the assertion that "it was the writers of Sargeson's generation who especially focused" on anti-Puritan themes.4 The Introduction traces the evolution of both theological and secular Puritanism, emphasising the complex nature of the Puritan inheritance in Britain, America, and New Zealand. Section One demonstrates that between 1862 and 1940 Puritanism was regarded in a predominantly positive light by a section of the New Zealand literary community. These pro-Puritan authors - some theologically motivated, such as Guy Thornton and Herman Foston, and some predominantly secular, such as Clara Cheeseman and Rosemary Rees - focus on five Puritan themes: conversion, marriage, work, prohibition, and female emancipation. Louisa Baker and Edith Searle Grossmann, the two authors considered in Section Two, also praise aspects of the Puritan inheritance, but criticise the way in which it fosters emotional repression and female oppression. The hint of disparagement in Baker's and Grossmann's work becomes a full-blown critique in the novels of the authors examined in Section Three. Novelists as diverse as George Chamier, Constance Clyde, Hector Bolitho, John A. Lee, and Jean Devanny challenge the Puritan vision of society and demonstrate that both the anti-Puritan sentiments and the key anti-Puritan tropes were in place prior to 1940. Throughout, the focus is primarily on the forgotten novelists of the New Zealand canon. Many of them have limited artistic vision and technical skill. However, as social documents providing an insight into the complexity of the Puritan influence in pre-1940 New Zealand their novels are invaluable. Notes 1 Gordon McLauchlan, The Big Con: The Death of the Kiwi Dream (Wellington: G. P. Publications, 1987), p. 51. Bill Pearson, "Freful Sleepers", Landfall, 6 (1952), p. 209. Lawrence Jones, "Puritanism", in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (Melbourne, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998) p.455. 2. Gordon McLauchlan, The Passionless People (Auckland: Cassell New Zealand, 1976), p. 17. Pearson, p. 225. James K. Baxter, Aspects of Poetry in New Zealand (Christchurch: Caxton, 1972), p.22. 3. Robert Chapman, "Fiction and the Social Pattern", in Essays on New Zealand Literature, ed. by Wystan Curnow (Auckland: Heineman, 1973), p. 98. 4. Jones, p. 455. en_NZ
dc.language en_NZ
dc.language.iso en_NZ
dc.publisher Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
dc.subject New Zealand literature en_NZ
dc.subject Puritanism in literature en_NZ
dc.subject Social ethics in literature en_NZ
dc.subject New Zealand en_NZ
dc.subject 19th century en_NZ
dc.subject 20th century en_NZ
dc.title The Puritan Paradox The Puritan Legacy in the Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life of New Zealand, Focusing Primarily on the Works of Novelists Writing Between 1862 and 1940. en_NZ
dc.type Text en_NZ
vuwschema.type.vuw Awarded Doctoral Thesis en_NZ
thesis.degree.grantor Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
thesis.degree.level Doctoral en_NZ
thesis.degree.name Doctor of Philosophy en_NZ


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