The Settler’s Plot: How Stories Take Place in New Zealand

Alex Calder


Europeans arrive on a beach, make markets and push inland. They take the land and transform it. They make themselves at home; they dream of other places. And the stories they write take shape in settings – the beach, the farm, the bush, the suburb – that become imaginary versions of actual places. Those settings sometimes host stories that are too simple – too flattering, too blaming – but in the work of our best writers, a richer history of settlement comes into focus.

Taking a new approach to the cultural history of this country, The Settler’s Plot is a study of the relationship between literature and place in New Zealand. Through fascinating and unpredictable readings of some of our greatest literature, from Maning and Guthrie-Smith to Mansfield, Sargeson, Curnow and Frame, Calder investigates the often contradictory meanings that Pakeha have found in our most familiar settings.


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Alex Calder teaches New Zealand and American literature in the English Department of The University of Auckland. He has written extensively on the literature of the cross-cultural frontier and the problems of settlement, and is an authority on the works of Herman Melville. He is the author of The Writing of New Zealand: Inventions and Identities (Reed, 1993) and co-editor of Voyages and Beaches: Pacific Encounters, 1769–1840 (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999).


August 2011, 215 x 140 mm, 312 pages
Paperback, ISBN 978 1 86940 488 8, $45