Gender and Verse: Religion in New Zealand Women's Poetry, 1970-2019
This thesis explores the remarkable, surprising and enduring presence of religion within the writings of New Zealand women poets since the 1970s. Analysing a comprehensive range of poems, I argue that religion is a dynamic and compelling feature of women’s poetry, emerging in a number of distinctive forms and tones. Using a thematic analysis, I explore religion in relation to domesticities, body and flesh, and whenua/land. I show that women poets deploy and rework religious ideas in ways that illuminate their gendered perspectives and experiences. Arguing that religion should be brought back into the centre of the scholarly analysis of New Zealand literature, I advance a fresh approach to the concept of religion. This framework acknowledges the interdependence and mutual imbrication of ‘religion’ and the ‘secular’, and also facilitates attention to ‘spirituality’. This expansive framework affords careful investigation into the interrelationships between all three of these modern categories. Having shown that religion permeates New Zealand women’s poetry and that attending to religion’s presence is vital for interpretation, I argue for a bona fide cross- disciplinary conversation between religious studies and literary studies; a revitalised investigation on ‘religion and literature’ will be productive for both fields.