New Zealand or Nowheresville: Nation and Community in Janet Frame's Living in the Maniototo
Janet’s Frame communitarian drive has been generally questioned by critics, who typically perceive a solipsistic drive in her fiction. Considering Jean-Luc Nancy’s and Maurice Blanchot’s notion of community, this study aims to revise Frame’s depiction of New Zealand’s immanent nationalism as portrayed in her novel Living in the Maniototo (1979). The starting point will be a revision of geographical ontologies involved in the fictionalization of New Zealand: Benedict Anderson’s and Edward Said’s imagined communities and geographies; Francis Pound’s dialogue with Stuart Murray about the nationalist project in New Zealand; the authenticity of local geography and the metaphor of the Promised Land; and Alex Calder’s concept of “looming” as a model of formal complexity, which is produced out of global rather than local conditions. The ironic interrogation of fictional spaces (Blenheim) and characters (Lonnie and Brian) will expose a blind nationalistic immanence that contrasts sharply with the portrayal of other characters (Lance and Zita), who have the potential to embrace alterity and transcendence. Frame’s early depiction of New Zealand as “Nowheresville” (42) does not anticipate a very sympathetic nationalist revision, but, through sharp irony, it will participate in Williams’ self-critical revision of New Zealand nationalism.