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The Bad Difficult Years

2 August 2012

The Bad Difficult Years

It’s the tenth annual Frank Sargeson Memorial lecture at the University of Waikato. This year’s paper will be presented by poet and independent scholar John Newton.

Dr Newton is calling his lecture “The bad difficult years: Sargeson’s Post-War Reconstruction.” It will focus on Frank Sargeson’s evolution as a writer – how and why his writing changed after the Second World War.

“Sargeson’s relative silence in the 1950s separates his work into two distinct phases,” says Dr Newton. “The author of the classic early stories is almost unrecognisable in his later fiction, and I’ll be trying to make sense of this curious evolution.”

Dr Newton is a former lecturer in English at the University of Canterbury and now lives on Waiheke Island. He is the author of The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune (VUP, 2009) and numerous articles on mid-century New Zealand literature. In 2010 he held the J D Stout Research Fellowship at Victoria University. His new volume of poems, Family Songbook, will be published next year by Victoria University Press.

The University of Waikato’s Sargeson Memorial Lecture series began in 2003 to celebrate Hamilton’s cultural history, and the life of its most famous literary son. Frank Sargeson changed the flavour of New Zealand writing, capturing the lives and language of ordinary people with a working class vernacular, previously not known in New Zealand literature.

Dr Sarah Shieff, the editor of Letters of Frank Sargeson and the organiser of the Frank Sargeson lecture series, says this year’s lecture will shed new light on Sargeson’s career, and on a whole era of New Zealand’s literary history. “It’s a tribute to the University, and to the Friends of the Hamilton Library who are our co-hosts, that we’re able to celebrate our tenth anniversary this year. The Sargeson lecture series has become a landmark in our calendar. It’s an opportunity to catch up with the newest thinking of some of New Zealand’s most influential cultural commentators.”

This year lecture is open to the public and takes place on 16 August at S.G.O1 at 5.30pm

The lecture will be followed by light refreshments, and the opportunity to meet Dr Newton. RSVP by 13 August to Hannah Wright,


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