E Kore Te Tōtara e Tū Noa i Te Pārae, Engari Me Tū i Roto i Te Wao-Nui-a-Tāne: The Symbolism of Rākau and Ngahere in the Huia Short Story Collections
This thesis is a literary critical exploration of rākau/ngahere symbolism as it appears in the biennial short story collections, published by Huia Publishers, that have resulted from the Pikihuia competition for Māori writers. These stories are examples of modern Māori language fiction written for an adult readership, a section of the Māori literary world that has had limited critical attention. The methodology of this thesis is founded on the close reading process and combines the approaches of both Māori Studies and Literary Studies, looking to provide an example of what “Māori Language Literary Studies” might look like as a discipline. The chapters of the thesis are divided into discussions of the rākau/ngahere motif as it functions with regard to three broad themes that can be identified in the Huia collections. Chapter One explores the theme: “points of origin”. This chapter includes close readings of four of the Huia short stories, especially focusing on the rākau/ngahere symbolism they employ and on how that symbolism and the general narrative content of each text relates to the “points of origin” theme. Chapter Two responds to the (post)colonial context in which these works were written and explores “Māori and Pākehā interaction” as a theme within two of the Huia texts. This chapter also raises questions about who the Huia authors are writing for and posits that a key feature of Māori language literature is that it is written for an almost exclusively Māori readership. Finally, Chapter Three discusses the theme of “different worlds” in three of the Huia texts. This critical exploration includes close readings of how different worlds are related to rākau imagery in the texts and shows how, rather than being “othered”, they are presented as layer upon layer of intersecting and interconnecting Māori worlds. This chapter also highlights the role of fiction as a conduit through which the reader can access new “worlds”. Ultimately, it is hoped that this thesis will create new space for the critical discussion of Māori language literature in a broad sense. The thesis is rooted in rākau/ngahere symbolism, but the lines of questioning that arise from his tight focus can potentially be expanded and applied to other Māori language texts, now and in the future.