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Experiment 11

Editorial Rebels in tradition

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Editorial Rebels in tradition

Most of the writers in this magazine may be called rebels in tradition. Of course, this last phrase is ambigrious. On the one hand, it may mean that they are continuing the tradition of rebellion which began with Manilius as Lucifer. On the other hand, it may mean that they are in rebellion against the tradition which has come down to them. Yet again; it may mean that they are rebels who are neverthenless within tradition. Each writer will select for himself what meaning he wishes to attach to himself. However, for practical purposes, all the meanings may be taken as equally applicable to each.

For myself, I am very much aware of the third meaning, that of being a rebel within tradition. I wish to emphasise both the need to rebel and the need to respect, understand, and preserve tradition. The exact course which the contemporarious rebellion is taking is not easy to define...by no means. However it is probably true that the course is one of illogicality rather than logicality, of absurdity rather than sense, and of unseriousness rather than seriousness. But it must not be overlooked that only a logical man can be illogical, only a philosophical man can be absurd, and only a responsible man can be unserious. It is in this way that the contemporary rebellion is related to tradition. The modern writer it seems to me, must be grounded in the literary and philosophic tradition in the first place, in order to be suffishently logical, philosophical, and responsable to be the opposite.

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I am not at all sure that sufficient grounding in the traditions is taking place. New Zealand literature is taking the last thirty years or so over some fields or so tended to be anti-traditional, and in general it seems that critical investiggation worldwide has failed to carry out an assessment of the last hundred years of literature. In English literature alone, it seems to me that any sort of adequate and historical understanding of tradition is lacking for the period after 1680, and this inadequacy becomes greater and greater as we approach our own time. It cannot be said that the eighteenth century or the Romantic Movement are yet in perspictive. It cannot be said that the Spasmodics (the writers between Arnold and Tennyson, inclusive) are even understood, while the PreRaphaelites, Aesthetes, Edwardians, and Georgians are just simply not in sight at all. This last case is imperatively and somewhat astoundingly in necessity of alteration. The period up to 1930 is now patently at a sufficiently great distance to be viewed historically and proportionally. At this time particulately, I think there should be a highly systematic acquisition of books and documents relevant to the period 1880-1930.

More generally still, I must deplore the narrowness of the study of tradition in this country. There is virtually no study of New Zealand literature now to 1930; and there is certainly no adequate study of the literature and language of the Welsh, the Picts, the Persians, the Albanians, the Quechuans, and most of the Asian Races. It seems to me imperatave that New Zealand intelectualls and academics should take up these studies.