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Australian and New Zealand Literatures  
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New Zealand Lesbian Novels

The development of the lesbian novel in Australia in the last two decades is a phenomenon that has not yet been matched in New Zealand, though Renée is a prolific published New Zealand lesbian writer. Her writing is varied and direct. Besides a number of plays, she has produced three books of fiction: the story collection Finding Ruth (1987), and the novels Willy Nilly (1990) and Daisy and Lily (1993).

Beryl Fletcher's two feminist novels (The Word Burners, 1991; The Iron Mouth, 1993) consider lesbian issues and impulses explicitly, as an important aspect of female textuality in its New Zealand context.

The Lesbian Short Story in Australia and New Zealand

However, in both countries--distinct societies, with differing histories and contemporary realities--women writers use the story form to explore issues of self, body, voice, and lesbian revision.

Although the short story has tended to be a realist form, some lesbian writers have found it amenable to fantasy, to expression of vivid constructive (and destructive) dreaming; furthermore, it has favored a new kind of focus on language itself, on language's innate capacity for deconstruction and reformulation, for challenging language as patriarchal property.

The Exploding Frangipani (edited by Cathie Dunsford and Susan Hawthorne) and Subversive Acts (edited by Cathie Dunsford) are two recent story anthologies that include a number of Australian and New Zealand feminist and lesbian writers, revealing the intense and widespread energy in a new writing of sex and gender.

From Australia, Thalia, Sandy Jeffs, Sue Chin, Susan Hawthorne, Jenny Pausacker, and Susan Hampton are representative of this innovative work, whereas in New Zealand Susan Sayer, Nancy Stone, Julie Glamuzina, Louise Simone, and Sandy Hall are active writers.

There are three important aspects to this lesbian-feminist work as demonstrated in these two anthologies. First, Subversive Acts, a New Zealand anthology that includes both lesbian and feminist (heterosexual) work, emphasizes the continuities within women's experience, whether it be heterosexual or lesbian.

Second, The Exploding Frangipani, an anthology of Australian and New Zealand lesbian writing, emphasizes the continuities in experience between the two distinct yet related societies.

Third, both collections include the work of Native writers: the Australian aborigine Eva Johnson, and New Zealand Maori Marewa P. Glover and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.

All three aspects underline something significant about lesbian writing: that it is prepared to transgress boundaries, to search for inclusive experience, to make creative alliances.


In all this writing--gay or lesbian, from Australia or New Zealand--exploration and revision of sex and gender traditions takes place within the dismantling of a crippling, colonial past that was strenuously patriarchal. Such revision seeks to end the repression of women, lesbians, and gays that many, until recently, would take for granted.

Patrick Holland

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literature >> Overview:  AIDS Literature

In the twenty years since its first appearance in the West, AIDS has been the subject of a large body of literature, most of it written by gay men and much of it designed to expose readers as closely as possible to the emergency of the epidemic and the suffering of affected individuals.

arts >> Overview:  Australian Art

Historically, Australia has produced some important gay and lesbian artists, but only recently have openly glbtq artists felt comfortable in Australia.

arts >> Overview:  Australian Film

The recent efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer themes in Australian film must be placed in the context of a film industry that, prior to the 1970s, was characterized by social conservatism and censorship.

arts >> Overview:  Australian Television

Despite some important breakthroughs in the depiction of gay men and lesbians in the past, Australian television today lacks any regular and open discussion of queer issues and lives.

social sciences >> Overview:  Australia

Given its history, it is somewhat surprising that Australia now has exceptionally gay-friendly laws and public attitudes, with widespread public tolerance and acceptance of the glbtq community.

arts >> Overview:  New Zealand Art

New Zealand is widely known for its diverse artistic production, which includes work by painters, filmmakers, dancers, and singers.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Zealand

Recently, New Zealand has distinguished itself for its liberal attitudes towards those of diverse genders and sexualities and its progressive anti-discrimination policies.

literature >> Overview:  Novel: Gay Male

Since World War II, the gay male novel has progressively flourished in England and especially in America.

literature >> Overview:  Novel: Lesbian

From the great modernist writers of the 1920s and 1930s to the pulp writers of the 1950s to the lesbian writers of today, lesbian novelists have had a powerful impact on the lesbian community.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sydney

With thriving glbtq communities, an accommodating atmosphere, and a mammoth Mardi Gras celebration, Sydney is a center of glbtq culture and a favorite destination for tourists of all genders and sexualities.

social sciences >> Altman, Dennis

Australian political scientist and self-described "international activist-academic" Dennis Altman has studied both the glbtq political movement and the globalization of sexual identities.

literature >> Baudelaire, Charles

Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.

literature >> Dessaix, Robert

Australian translator, editor, essayist, travel writer, and novelist Robert Dessaix did not publish his first book until he was fifty; two novels later he is recognized as an important voice in Australian gay literature.

literature >> Eliot, T[homas] S[tearns]

Although Eliot tried to suppress the fact, The Waste Land is an elegy for a young Frenchman whom he met and loved in Paris and who died in the Great War in 1915.

literature >> Gide, André

André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

literature >> Goldsmith, Andrea

Australian novelist Andrea Goldsmith writes books that reflect her own life and dearest concerns--lesbian relationships, her hometown of Melbourne, Australian Jewish culture, and the inevitable, yet unpredictable, effect of the past upon the future.

literature >> Plato

Among Greek writers on homosexual themes, Plato is preeminent not only as a major philosopher but also as the greatest master of Greek prose.

literature >> Plomer, William

Although overt homosexuality is absent from William Plomer's novels and poems, the relevance of his sexuality to his work is evident.

literature >> Porter, Dorothy

The work of Australian lesbian poet Dorothy Porter presents a cheeky challenge to a literary establishment whose poetry has often been defined by pretension and obfuscation.

literature >> Proust, Marcel

Marcel Proust is the author of A la recherche du temps perdu, one of the major achievements of Modernism and a great gay novel.

literature >> Rimbaud, Arthur

Because his writing stresses liberation, the French "boy-poet" Arthur Rimbaud, whose art is based solely on his individual creativity, is a progenitor of modern gay poetics.

literature >> Sargeson, Frank

The New Zealander Frank Sargeson wrote stories and novels about ordinary men in ordinary circumstances, their plots driven by sexual problems and antagonisms that obliquely reflect their author's homosexuality.

literature >> White, Patrick

The gay Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White wrote explicitly about homosexuality only in his novel The Twyborn Affair and his autobiography Flaws in the Glass.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.


Cresswell, Walter D'Arcy. The Poet's Progress. London: Faber, 1930.

_____. Margaret McMillan. London: Hutchinson, 1948.

Courage, James. The Young Have Secrets. London: Jonathan Cape, 1954.

_____. A Way of Love. London: Jonathan Cape, 1959.

Dessaix, Robert. Anthology of Australian Gay and Lesbian Writing. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Dunsford, Cathie, ed. Subversive Acts: New Writing by New Zealand Women. Auckland, NZ: Penguin, 1991.

Dunsford, Cathie and Susan Hawthorne, eds. The Exploding Frangipani: Lesbian Writing from Australia & New Zealand. Auckland, NZ: New Women's Press, 1990.

Farmer, Beverley. Alone. Carlton South, Victoria: Sisters Publishing, 1980.

Hampton, Susan. Surly Girls. Sydney, NSW: Angus & Robertson, 1989.

Hawthorne, Susan. The Falling Woman. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press, 1992.

Mackenzie, Kenneth "Seaforth." The Young Desire It. Sydney, NSW: Angus & Robertson, 1972. [First published 1937]

Malouf, David. Johnno. St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1975.

Moorhead, Finola. A Handwritten Modern Classic. Fitzroy, NSW: Sybylla Co-operative, 1977.

_____. Remember the Tarantella. Sydney, NSW: Primavera Press, 1987.

Riley, Elizabeth. All That False Instruction. London: Angus & Robertson, 1975.

Sargeson, Frank. Man of England Now. London: Martin Brian and O'Keefe, 1972. [Includes "I For One" and "A Game of Hide and Seek"]

_____. The Stories of Frank Sargeson. Auckland, NZ: Longman Paul, 1973.

Stow, Randolph. The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea. Harmodsworth: Penguin, 1968. [First published 1965]

Wells, Peter. Dangerous Desires. Auckland, NZ: Reed Publishing, 1991. [Pacific Writers Series]

White, Patrick. The Twyborn Affair. New York: Viking, 1979.

_____. Flaws in the Glass: A Self-Portrait. New York: Viking, 1981.


    Citation Information
    Author: Holland, Patrick  
    Entry Title: Australian and New Zealand Literatures  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 8, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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