Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Boden Black (A Novel) and With Axe and Pen in the New Zealand Alps: Differences Between Overseas and New Zealand Written Accounts of Climbing Mount Cook 1882-1920 and the Emergence of a New Zealand Voice in Mountaineering Literature

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posted on 2021-11-12, 16:03 authored by Fearnley, Jura (Laurence)

This thesis has two components: creative and critical. The creative component is the novel Boden Black. It is a first person narrative, imagined as a memoir, and traces the life of its protagonist, Boden Black, from his childhood in the late 1930s to adulthood in the present day. The plot describes various significant encounters in the narrator’s life: from his introduction to the Mackenzie Basin and the Mount Cook region in the South Island of New Zealand, through to meetings with mountaineers and ‘lost’ family members. Throughout his journey from child to butcher to poet, Boden searches for ways to describe his response to the natural landscape. The critical study is titled With Axe and Pen in the New Zealand Alps. It examines the published writing of overseas and New Zealand mountaineers climbing at Aoraki/Mount Cook between 1882 and 1920. I advance the theory that there are stylistic differences between the writing of overseas and New Zealand mountaineers and that the beginning of a distinct New Zealand mountaineering voice can be traced back to the first accounts written by New Zealand mountaineers attempting to reach the summit of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The first mountaineer to attempt to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook was William Spotswood Green, an Irishman who introduced high alpine climbing to New Zealand in 1882. Early New Zealand mountaineers initially emulated the conventions of British mountaineering literature as exemplified by Green and other famous British mountaineers. These pioneering New Zealand mountaineers attempted to impose the language of the ‘civilised’ European alpine-world on to the ‘uncivilised’ world of the Southern Alps. However, as New Zealand mountaineering became more established at Aoraki/Mount Cook from the 1890s through to 1920, a distinct New Zealand voice developed in mountaineering literature: one that is marked by a sense of connection to place expressed through site-specific, factual observation and an unadorned, sometimes laconic, vernacular writing style.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Creative Writing

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Creative Writing


Manhire, Bill; Thomson, John