Fossil capacities in the work of Janet Frame | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2050-4039
  • E-ISSN: 2050-4047



The Guyanese novelist and critic Wilson Harris defines the word ‘fossil’ in an idiosyncratic sense, to invoke ‘a rhythmic capacity to re-sense contrasting spaces and to suggest that a curious rapport exists between ruin and origin as latent to arts of genesis’ (Harris 1974: 1) – prior to hinting that such a ‘heterogeneous scale’ (Harris 1981: 111) of temporality can be seen to exist within the fictional universe fashioned by Janet Frame. This, in turn, implies that any appreciation of her work’s embeddedness in local (South Pacific) realities must simultaneously take account of the depths of spatiality created by means of her particular aesthetics. This article attempts to address Frame’s strange interest in ghostly vestiges of superseded experience, which she expresses through recurring allusions to subterranean strata of landscape encrypting a sense of ‘epochs and ages gone’– as she phrases this in Living in the Maniototo (Frame 1979: 154). Indeed, her settings beg the question of a ‘native capacity’ (another Harrisian phrase; see Harris 1981: 49) possibly underlying her approach to New Zealand contemporary culture. Intriguingly, she probes the matter through her repeated evocation of reputedly extinct animal species – dinosaur, moa, takahe – which she sees in some cases to be gesturing towards the possibility of resuscitation, as with the tuatara mentioned in Towards Another Summer, and quite in keeping with an aesthetics of excavation subordinated to her quest for occulted forms of being and knowing. As some of Frame’s characters conceive this, it is a matter of realizing that human vision is untrustworthy and must be supplemented through a form of third-eye vision paradoxically inherited in spite of the losses of history.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error