New Zealand Literature in English

Works in section R: Other Literatures in English/General are important to research in New Zealand literature.

Research Methods


Christenberry and Courtney, Literary Research and the Literatures of Australia and New Zealand: Strategies and Sources (R4435).

Guides to Reference Works

For an evaluative survey of some basic general reference sources, see J. E. Traue, New Zealand Studies: A Guide to Bibliographic Resources (Wellington: Victoria UP for Stout Research Centre for the Study of New Zealand Society, History, and Culture, 1985; 27 pp.). Literary reference works are more fully treated by John Thomson, “Bibliography,” pp. 737–865 in Sturm, The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (R4805).

Histories and Surveys


Sturm, Terry, ed. The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English. 2nd ed. Auckland: Oxford UP, 1998. 890 pp. PR9624.3.O94 820.9′993.

A collection of separately authored essays—devoted to genres as well as nonfiction, children’s literature, popular fiction, publishing and literary magazines, Maori literature, literary criticism and theory, and reference works—on the history of New Zealand literature, primarily in English, through c. 1996. The chapters on literature proceed chronologically, with due attention to social, political, and cultural contexts. Some chapters offer the first detailed consideration of their respective subject; the evaluative bibliographical survey is the best guide now available to reference works and general studies (published and unpublished) important to research in English-language New Zealand literature. Indexed by persons, subjects, and titles of anonymous works. The breadth, depth, and balance of coverage make Sturm the most comprehensive and authoritative history of New Zealand literature in English. Review: Alex Calder, Landfall 46.1 (1992): 98–109.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. Ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie. Melbourne: Oxford UP, 1998. 608 pp. PR9620.2.O94 820.9′993′03. Online through Oxford Reference (I530).

A dictionary of New Zealand literature in English, Maori, and other languages. The majority of the signed entries, which range from fewer than 100 to more than 2,000 words, are for individuals, but works, publishers, collectors, children’s literature, periodicals, libraries, films, relations with other national literatures, and topics of significance to New Zealand literature are included. Readable, informative, and reliable, Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature goes well beyond the typical Oxford Companion to treat many topics and writers for the first time and thus offers researchers a plethora of subjects worthy of fuller discussion. Review: Iain Sharp, Landfall ns 7.1 (1999): 117–20.

Guides to Primary Works



The Community Archive: National Register of Archives and Manuscripts. Formerly National Register of Archives and Manuscripts / Te Rārangi Pūranga, Tuhinga Ake o te Motu. Archives New Zealand, 2009. 9 Jan. 2013. <>. Updated regularly.

A crowd-sourced database register of manuscript collections held by repositories and individuals in New Zealand that includes most entries in National Register of Archives and Manuscripts in New Zealand (Wellington: Alexander Turnbull Lib., 1979–93) as well as descriptions contributed to the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts / Te Rārangi Pūranga, Tuhinga Ake o te Motu database after cessation of the print volumes; collections in the Alexander Turnbull Library were excluded from the latter but can be searched through TAPUHI ( Entries, based on information contributed by archives, individuals, and libraries, can be searched by keyword in basic Search; Advanced Search allows searching by keyword, contributor (name, type, and location), resource type or medium, and date. In addition, searchers can browse five lists (click Explore Collections): subjects, contributors, locations, people (individuals, families, and organizations), and tags contributed by users of the site. A full entry includes title of collection; author of the documents; holder of the collection (with shelf list and contact information); type of materials; dates covered; description; quantity; information on access; finding aids; and places, persons, and institutions figuring prominently in the collection. The descriptions vary considerably in their informativeness, like those in any register based on institutional and individual contributions, but Community Archive offers the best guide to locating manuscript collections in New Zealand.

Printed Works


Bagnall, A. G., ed. and comp. New Zealand National Bibliography to the Year 1960. 5 vols. Wellington: Govt. Printer, 1969–85. Z4101.B28 015.931.

A retrospective national bibliography of books and pamphlets published in New Zealand or containing “significant references” to the country. (For a full discussion of kinds of publications excluded, see vol. 1, pt. 1, p. vii, and vol. 2, pp. viii–ix.) Vol. 1 covers 1663–1889; vols. 2–4, 1890–1960. Listed alphabetically by author, corporate author, or title of anonymous work, entries supply title, imprint, pagination, size, and an occasional note on content. A double asterisk denotes a work not seen by the compiler; a title set in italic identifies a work that is outside the bibliography’s scope but that researchers might expect to find listed. Vol. 1, pt. 2 prints additions (pp. 1159–70) and two indexes: chronological; subjects, titles, joint authors. Vol. 5 includes additions and corrections to vol. 1 (pp. 619–37) and vols. 2–4 (pp. 1–279), as well as a subject, title, and joint author index to entries for 1890–1960. Bagnall offers the fullest guide to works published in and about the country.

Although largely superseded by Bagnall, T. M. Hocken, A Bibliography of the Literature Relating to New Zealand (Wellington: Mackay, 1909; 619 pp.), is still useful because of its inclusion of articles and newspapers, classified organization (with sections for language and literature), and extensive notes. See also A. H. Johnstone, comp., Supplement to Hocken’s Bibliography of New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Whitcombe, 1927; 73 pp.), and L. J. B. Chapple, A Bibliographical Brochure Containing Addenda and Corrigenda to Extant Bibliographies of N. Z. Literature (Dunedin: Reed, 1938; 47 pp.).


New Zealand National Bibliography, [1966– ] (NZNB). Wellington: Natl. Lib. of New Zealand, 1968– . Monthly, with some annual cumulations and one for 1983–93. Microfiche only, 1983–99; Microsoft Word or PDF files, 2000–08; Microsoft Excel or PDF files, 2008– . <>.

Publications New Zealand. National Library of New Zealand. Natl. Lib. of New Zealand, n.d. 9 Jan. 2013. <>.

A national bibliography of publications and electronic materials published in New Zealand, by New Zealanders, or having significant New Zealand content that were deposited since 1966 under the country’s copyright act or acquired by the National Library of New Zealand. After the bibliography for 1985, nonbook print publications are omitted. The printed volumes were single-author, title, and subject lists. The microfiche edition was published in four parts: register (with entries listed by National Library card number), subject list, author and title list, and publishers’ addresses; only the first provides full cataloging information. Currently, catalog records are listed alphabetically by title under the main Dewey Decimal Classification schedules (with separated sections for New Zealand literature and publications without Dewey Decimal classifications). Each issue concludes with an author index. Records can be searched through Publications New Zealand. New Zealand National Bibliography offers the most complete record of current New Zealand publications. Works published before 1966 are listed in Index to New Zealand Periodicals and Current National Bibliography of New Zealand Books and Pamphlets Published in [1950–65] (Wellington: Natl. Lib. of New Zealand, 1951–66) and before 1960 in Bagnall, New Zealand National Bibliography (R4810).

See also

“Annual Bibliography of Commonwealth Literature” (R4375).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Thomson, John. New Zealand Literature to 1977: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1980. 272 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 30. Z4111.T45 [PR9624.3] 016.82.

A bibliography of primary and secondary works (including theses, dissertations, popular journalism, and numerous unpublished checklists and ephemeral items) covering literature in English and Maori. Entries are organized in seven classified divisions: bibliographies and reference works (with sections for general works, biographical dictionaries, indexes to serial publications, guides to special collections, and New Zealand English), literary history and criticism, anthologies, individual authors (with sections for bibliographies, collected works, biographical materials, primary works, and criticism), other writers (listing works by minor or unestablished authors), periodicals, and nonfiction prose (by New Zealanders as well as foreigners) about the country. A headnote outlines the scope and organization of each division. Most annotations are full, with many offering evaluative comments; however, several entries are left unannotated. Two indexes: persons; titles. Although the coverage of nineteenth-century literature is weak, Thomson is the most complete single guide to scholarship on New Zealand literature. Review: Shaun F. D. Hughes, Modern Fiction Studies 27.1 (1981): 173–88. Some additional studies of prose fiction are recorded in Rose Marie Beston and John B. Beston, “Critical Writings on Modern New Zealand and Australian Fiction: A Selected Checklist,” Modern Fiction Studies 27.1 (1981): 189–204.

See also

Secs. G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts and H: Guides to Dissertations and Theses.

ABELL (G340): Entries on English-language New Zealand writers and literature are dispersed throughout.

“Annual Bibliography of Commonwealth Literature” (R4375).

“Bibliography of Australian and New Zealand Literature and Criticism Published in North America” (R4480a).

Boos, Bibliography of Women and Literature (U6600).

MLAIB (G335): English Literature division (especially English III: General) through the volume for 1956; English XI: Australia, Canada, Etc./New Zealand section in the volumes for 1957–66; English II: Australia, Canada, Etc./New Zealand section in the volumes for 1967–80; and the [British] Commonwealth Literature/New Zealand Literature section in later volumes. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “New Zealand” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

New, Critical Writings on Commonwealth Literatures (R4380).

Schwartz, Articles on Women Writers (U6605).

Thompson, John, “Bibliography,” pp. 737–865 in Sturm, The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (R4805).

Williams, Mark, “Literary Scholarship, Criticism, and Theory,” pp. 695–736 in Sturm, The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (R4805).

———, Post-colonial Literatures in English: Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, 1970–1992 (R4380a).

YWES (G330): New Zealand literature has been covered in the chapter African, Caribbean, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and Indian Literature in English since vol. 64 (for 1983).


Guides to Scholarship


ABELL (G340): Dialects section of the English Language division in the volumes for 1920–26; the English Dialects section in the volumes for 1927–72; the Dialects/Australia and New Zealand section in the volumes for 1973–84; the Dialects/Australasia section in the volumes for 1985–86; and the Dialects/Dialects of the Rest of the World section in later volumes.

MLAIB (G335): See the English I: Linguistics section through the volume for 1966; the Indo-European C: Germanic Linguistics IV: English/Modern English/Dialectology section in the volumes for 1967–80; and the Indo-European Languages/Germanic Languages/West Germanic Languages/English Language (Modern)/Dialectology section in later volumes. Researchers must also check the heading “New Zealand English Dialect” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Thomson, New Zealand Literature to 1977 (R4820).



The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Ed. Tony Deverson and Graeme Kennedy. South Melbourne: Oxford UP, 2005. 1,355 pp. PE3602.Z5 N487 423.22. Online through Oxford Reference (I530).

A dictionary of New Zealand English as well as terms shared with Australian English, acronyms, and words not unique to New Zealand but “especially relevant” in the country. In addition to entries for approximately 100,000 words, there are some 10,000 encyclopedic entries that provide “information about the world, especially its notable persons and places.” Full vocabulary entries consist of headword, pronunciation, part of speech, inflections, definitions, illustrative examples, grammatical information, usage note, phrases and idioms, compounds, derivatives, etymology, combined forms, and cross-references. Although needlessly swollen by encyclopedic entries that have no discernible relation to New Zealand and not a historical dictionary (nevertheless incorporating Dictionary of New Zealand English: A Dictionary of New Zealandisms on Historical Principles, ed. H. W. Orsman [Auckland: Oxford UP, 1997; 965 pp.]), New Zealand Oxford Dictionary is an essential tool for explicating New Zealand literary works.

Biographical Dictionaries


The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography / Nga Tangata Taumata Rau (DNZB). Auckland: Auckland UP with Bridget Williams Books and Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1990– . CT2882.D53 920.093. <>.

  • Vol. 1: 1769–1869. 1990. 674 pp.

  • Vol. 2: 1870–1900. 1993. 664 pp.

  • Vol. 3: 1901–1920. 1996. 649 pp.

  • Vol. 4: 1921–1940. 1998. 650 pp.

  • Vol. 5: 1941–1960. 2000. 679 pp.

  • Vol. 6: 1961–1980.

  • Future volumes are planned.

A biographical dictionary, in English and Maori, of persons who “flourished” in New Zealand. Entrants are chosen for their eminence or representativeness (with due attention given to ethnic group, gender, region, and activity) or for balance within a volume (e.g., in vol. 1, 30% of the biographees are Maori and 20% are women). The signed entries provide a basic biography and conclude with a selected bibliography of published and unpublished sources. Three indexes in vol. 1: occupations, activities, vocations, tribal leaders; tribes and hapu; persons (vol. 2 adds a regional index).

The online version includes all the biographies in the printed volumes—some of which have been corrected and some of which include additional images or sound files—as well as ones for people who died after 1960 (the cutoff date of the last printed volume). The current search interface is a marked improvement over the earlier ones. The home page allows users to search by keyword or to browse biographees. The advanced search screen allows searches by occupation, region, gender, Maori or non-Maori, year of death, year of birth, tribal affiliation, contributor, and country of birth. Unfortunately, a biography and its accompanying bibliography are displayed on separate pages that must be printed or downloaded (through a Web browser) separately.

Admirably broad in coverage, the DNZB is the standard biographical dictionary for New Zealanders. On the background of the project, see W. H. Oliver, ““The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and the State of New Zealand Historical Studies”,” Australian and New Zealand Studies, ed. Patricia McLaren-Turner (London: British Lib., 1985; British Lib. Occasional Papers 4), 30–40; for current information about the project, consult the Dictionary’s Web site.

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Biographical Database ( includes information on individuals not in DNZB.

Users can also search Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand through the DNZB Web site.



Guides to Primary Works

Burns, James. New Zealand Novels and Novelists, 1861–1979: An Annotated Bibliography. Auckland: Heinemann, 1981. 71 pp. Z4114.F4 B83 [PR9632.2] 016.823′008′09931.

A chronological list of novels by New Zealanders, including those resident abroad, and some by foreigners that are set in New Zealand; Burns excludes works for children. Listed by date of first publication, the approximately 1,000 entries cite author, title, publication information, number of pages or volumes, translations, and appearances in periodicals. The very brief (and frequently inadequate) annotations describe content. Two indexes: titles; authors. New Zealand Novels and Novelists offers the fullest list of New Zealand novels, but a subject index would enhance its usefulness.