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New Zealand Masculinity – Fact and Fiction

New Zealand Masculinity – Fact and Fiction

New Zealand continues to have a high incidence of violence, crime and male suicide and, while several books have attempted to explain the ‘Kiwi male’, finding out why has never been easy.

Men in this country are notoriously self-contained and private, being reluctant to talk about their personal feelings and highly embarrassed at the thought that any private emotional difficulties they might be experiencing could be exposed to critical examination.

Alistair Fox has studied the imaginative literature written by men in order to make contact with the reality that lies beneath the surface. The Ship of Dreams provides a detailed analysis of the works of two leading Pakeha novelists (Maurice Gee and Stevan Eldred-Grigg), and two major Maori novelists (Witi Ihimaera, and Alan Duff). Says the author, ‘These novels contained profound representations of the subjective experience of men and were highlighting the existence of difficulties in masculine experience that were having severe personal consequences for individual men, and destructive social consequences for New Zealand society at large.’

The book explores the influence that their respective cultural legacies have had on the psychic well-being of men and argues that the reality depicted by these authors is very different from the masculine stereotypes presented in popular myth.

The Ship of Dreams is the first critical study to investigate at length how masculine subjectivities are represented in contemporary New Zealand fiction and provides a dimension that is missing from other books on the subject of the Kiwi male. Alistair Fox explores how the problems within male culture reside in psychological damage inflicted by the behaviours of parents, behaviours that spring from aspects of our Pakeha and Maori cultural legacies.

It becomes apparent from reading this book that contemporary men of both races have been finding it extremely difficult to reconcile what is expected of them with what their natural inclinations or dreams impel them towards in their search for a happy and fulfilling life. Authors usually try to get at the truth. It is surprising that we have been stuck with the idea of ‘man alone’ for so long and that no one has previously attempted a major study of the elusive ‘Kiwi Male’ by investigating his culture as depicted in our contemporary fiction. Readers should find this view of our cultural roots an inspiration. By outlining the origins of male cultural problems, this book may even help men in New Zealand to fulfil dreams that are closer to their expectations. Author

Alistair Fox has has written extensively on humanism, politics, and reform in early modern England and New Zealand literature and culture. He has written and co-authored several books and chapters of books on medieval English including Utopia: An

Elusive Vision. More recently he has been writing on contemporary New Zealand culture. He is Professor of English at the University of Otago. Publication details Title: The Ship of Dreams Subtitle: Masculinity in Contemporary New Zealand Fiction In store from: June 2008 Price: NZ$45.00 inc.

GST Paperback: 230 pp

ENDS

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