modernist, modernism, maternal influence, maternal origins, planetary modernis


Though the writings of Virginia Woolf and Witi Ihimaera are “incommensurable” in many ways, I find “commesurablilities”––the kind of commensurabilities the Susan Stanford Friedman seeks out across the planetary landscape of modernism––in the way they negotiate a new creative identity in a modern environment with the bang clash of history and present ringing in their ears. I see this commensurability in at least three key features: 1) Woolf and Ihimaera each gave birth to new literary movements: Woolf was mother to high British Modernism with experimental techniques such as free indirect discourse and the relegation of plot to the background; Ihimaera birthed the Maori Renaissance in which Maori people told their own story for the first time in the face of colonial domination. 2) Woolf and Ihimaera were both heavily influenced by maternal origins and explored those influences as they negotiated new creative identities in a modern age. 3) Woolf’s mother and Ihimaera’s matriarch both represent national identities in Victorianism and Maori culture, respectively.

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