Second Star To The Right: Witi Ihimaera as a Queer Forefather of New Zealand Literature
For the past forty years queer New Zealand criticism has been contending with critics who reject the kind of classification that the category queer suggests. Even when the texts examined feature queer themes, or are written by queer authors, there is sometimes a reluctance to label them as a distinctly queer literature. To confuse matters further, it is often our most pivotal writers who have utilised what we might view as queer modes of storytelling, serving to enmesh and complicate this relationship between works that are canonised and those that are queer. Witi Ihimaera is an author whose works, at times, resist queer categorisation: is he a New Zealand author? A Māori author? A queer author? How do these identities interact with each other? This thesis will first seek to understand how Ihimaera’s queer identity is represented within the New Zealand canon of literary criticism and will use close readings of his archival material to document how his literary gay identity has been shaped. Secondly, I read Ihimaera’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1995) against the backdrop of its drafts. This thesis studies how the queer content in Nights emerges and evolves. From there I consider Ihimaera’s literary gay identity in relation to his surrounding novels and the spiral of his other overlapping identities and loyalties. The deconstruction of Ihimaera’s identities will help us firmly place him as a gay New Zealand literary forefather.