John Newton

Hard Frost: Structures of Feeling in New Zealand Literature, 1908-1945


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October 2017


How did New Zealand writers make nationalism out of modernism? What did the process owe to a revolution in sexuality? And what did this mean for writing by women as the 1920s gave way to the 1930s?

Writing as a poet as well as a historian, as a critic of ideology, and as a self-confessed fan of the nationalist legacy, John Newton tackles these intriguing questions with warmth, insight and critical precision. The first part of an ambitious trilogy, Hard Frost shows us a fresh way of looking at New Zealand literature of the 20th century. It details the pleasures of essential texts. It also roams far and wide through their contexts: from mountaineering to moa excavation, from beauty pageants to the history of psychoanalysis. In readings of such foundational authors as Mansfield, Sargeson, Curnow and Hyde, Hard Frost proposes that our literary history is not just a story about books but a forgotten history of feelings. We know these writers well, yet they have so much still to tell us. This lucidly argued work will change the way we understand them.

Born in Blenheim in 1959, John Newton grew up on a sheep farm in the Marlborough Sounds. He taught for two years in the English Department at Melbourne and from 1995 to 2009 in the English Department at the University of Canterbury. He now lives in Wellington. His work on James K. Baxter’s time at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River, The Double Rainbow: James K Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune, was published by VUP in 2009. John is also the author of the poetry collections Tales from the Angler’s Eldorado (1985), Lives of the Poets (2010), and Family Songbook (2013). 

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