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Ihimaera’s The Matriarch and canonical intertextuality – Lawn

April 5, 2013

the matriarchIn her critical essay on Storytelling and Intertextuality in Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip, Jennifer lawn also considers Witi Ihimaera’s The Matriarch in terms of canonical intertextuality. She writes:  “…examples of canonical rewriting [comparable with Mister Pip] are surprisingly rare in our fiction, but those that do exist tend to work with, rather than against, the grain of their European inheritance. To take a somewhat marginal example, consider the quotations from Verdi’s operas La Forza del Destino and Nabuco in Witi Ihimaera’s novel The Matriarch. The allusions are tossed in for their connotative compression: as geographical marker, the operas acknowledge the matriarch’s sojourn in Venice; opera inspires the novel’s [-p.151] five-part structure and its tone of high-brow melodrama and Verdi’s association with the Italian Risorgimento signals Ihimaera’s preoccupations with the rise and fall of dynasties and nations. However, The Matriarch stands independent of Verdi’s operas; and while Verdi rounds out The Matriarch, it could not be said that the converse applies. A better candidate for canonical rewriting is the bone people, which reworks the iconic moment when Robinson Crusoe finds a footprint in the sand….” (pp.151-152)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold, mine) Jennifer lawn (2009) ‘What the Dickens: Storytelling and Intertextuality in Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip‘ pp.142-163 in Eds. Anna Jackson and Jane Stafford Floating Worlds: Essays on Contemporary New Zealand Fiction. Victoria University press: Wellington.


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