Course Description

[Anthony Haden-Guest: The Resistance to Theory]

What is this course about?

This paper extends, updates, and deepens the introductory approaches to New Zealand literature and postcolonial writing that students receive in their undergraduate papers. Although papers in New Zealand literature are presently listed in the English postgraduate programme, they tend to focus on mid-twentieth century settler writing or ethnic identities rather than contemporary fiction and poetry.

The course invites students to see “New Zealand” and “World” literature as interrelated categories. Students will be challenged to engage with the innovations and technical demands of some of this country’s most demanding local writers in the light of international influences.

In addition to this focus on the formal dimensions of texts, the course also draws students into a critical conversation on globalisation and the postcolonial as key terms in cultural theory. This is a timely debate in a period when New Zealand literature has been conceptualised as part of an export culture, in contrast to the predominant mid-century effort to develop an authentic local voice.

The course assessment includes a substantial formative element (the critical journal) as well as a creative component. These assessments are consistent with the principle that informal and creative responses to literature can act as complements to, and preparation for, the more standard academic mode of expository writing.

What are our learning objectives?

Students who successfully complete this paper should be able to:
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of globalisation and postcoloniality as theories of transnational cultural flows.
  • Relate New Zealand literary texts to international creative influences.
  • Demonstrate the sustained and complex close reading of technical and stylistic innovation in contemporary New Zealand literary texts.
  • Develop written, spoken, and creative forms of critical inquiry as responses to contemporary New Zealand fiction and poetry.

What am I expected to do each week?

You are expected to do an average of 30-odd pages of reading from the Course Anthology (for further details, see the online Course Timetable). Sometimes it will be more, sometimes less.

Unless you do this reading, you will not be able to understand fully the 20 or so pages of weekly Workbook notes available to you on stream.

These notes will be accompanied by short podcasts, intended to help focus you on what is most vital in each week’s readings.

If you have any questions about the course or the assignments, a set of online forums have been provided for you to discuss them with me (and your fellow-students) directly.

I will endeavour to reply to forum queries within 24 hours (with the exception of weekends and statutory holidays). If I'm ever late in getting back to you, please rest assured that it’s through inadvertence rather than intention.

What are the protocols of an online forum?

  1. Be courteous and supportive of each other – constructively critical, not negative.
  2. Be honest. Don’t give out praise or blame if you don’t really mean it.
  3. Curtail any introductions (or apologies) for your competence to address the question you’re discussing. Let that speak for itself.
  4. Don’t wait too long before getting involved in the discussion, or it will become an increasingly frightening prospect.
  5. Observe “Netiquette”: address the issue rather than the person, and never use violent or abusive language online.


All the work you hand in should adhere to the following guidelines:
  • Typed: handwritten work is not acceptable.
  • 1½ or double-spaced text.
  • 12 or 14-point type: smaller or larger is unacceptable.
  • In a file format readable by turnitin, the online plagiarism detection software: this excludes the use of pdfs or word processing programmes other than MSWord or (at a pinch) rtf: Rich Text Format.
All assignments should also be submitted through Stream by the due dates listed on the online Course Timetable. You are allowed to submit more than one file for all four assignments.


You will be graded not on the quality of the experience or feelings you describe in your writing (whether poetry or prose), but on:
  • how well it meets the assignment requirements.
  • how effective it is as a piece of writing.
  • the cogency with which you communicate the ideas that lie behind your work.
Presentation and grammar are also very important. Hastily thrown-together, sloppily formatted work is unlikely to achieve a good grade.

In the case of creative work, grading can be particularly sensitive. If you disagree with a mark, I suggest that you wait for a few days before reacting to it. Give yourself that much time to reread and reflect on the grade and the comments.

If you still have a query or complaint after that, you should certainly get in touch.

Late Assignments

All work is due in on stream on the dates given in the online Course Timetable.

Late work, without an extension, will incur a penalty of one mark per day.

If it is more than one week late, your marker may refuse to accept or grade it.


If you want an extension, you must ask for one before the assignment is due. They will be given sparingly, in cases of bereavement, illness or “family crisis.” You will be asked to provide medical certificates for illness.

Word limits

You are permitted a standard variation of 10% on either side of the assignment word limits (listed on p. 7). This means (for instance) that a 1000-word assignment can fall between 900 and 1100 words without penalty: anything either below or above those figures will, however, be penalised.

Email Communication

Discussion of course-related topics should be confined to the online forums. You should use email only:
  • to request an extension on an assignment.
    NB: This may or may not be granted. You are not guaranteed a ‘yes’.
  • to explain any adverse circumstances which are preventing you from concentrating on your studies.
    NB: You should be prepared to provide a medical certificate if it is health-related. If in doubt, however, it’s always best to let us know about any unforeseen difficulties you are experiencing.


We take plagiarism extremely seriously. If you take all or part of someone else’s work without acknowledgement and present it as your own, you can expect to receive – at the very least – a zero grade for that assignment.

Depending on the seriousness of the offence, you may also face failure in the course as a whole.

If in doubt, check. Not only your words, but also the plots and ideas you employ must be your own unaided work.

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