"she who connects": Unity of Self & World in the Novels of Robin Hyde

by Genevieve Kate Scanlan

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Robin Hyde; New Zealand; Nietzsche; Jung; transformation; unity; Dionysian; Apollonian
Record ID: 1300034
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5339


This thesis identifies connection and unity as the core tenets of Robin Hyde’s work. Focusing primarily on three novels that came out of Hyde’s voluntary convalescence at Avondale Mental Hospital (Wednesday’s Children, Nor the Years Condemn and The Godwits Fly), I propose that these novels encapsulate the vision of peace and harmony which pervades Hyde’s body of work as a whole. These three novels, resulting from her own transformative sojourn at the Lodge, reflect with particular clarity Hyde’s central preoccupation: regaining, via a transformation of the psyche, a sense of unity and equipoise which she believed to be absent from the fragmentary modern life she saw around her. As Hyde scholars have recognised, precisely such an internal transformation was central to the works of Carl Gustav Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche, both of whom Hyde had encountered during her time at the Lodge. Building on this scholarship, I propose that these novels bear rich testimony to Hyde’s engagement with and unique variations on just such contemporary ideas of psychic unity as are found in Jung and Nietzsche: the conception of a collective unconscious, the value of art in allowing access to that realm of primordial connection, and the notion of transformation as a “union of the opposites” which balances and integrates Apollonian ego-consciousness with an awareness of deeper, Dionysian unity. I link the transformations sought or attained by Hyde’s central characters to their inherent affinity with the Dionysian: the untamed, generative forces of nature and art, which offer both diversity and unity through their source: the collective unconscious. Moving from Hyde’s depiction of the self fragmented by a divisive society in Wednesday’s Children, via her evocation of a coming societal transformation in Nor the Years Condemn to, finally, her depiction of a successfully transformed individual at the end of The Godwits Fly, I draw lines of connection to illustrate the coherence of Hyde’s vision for the integration of individual and society. Ultimately, I seek to demonstrate that Hyde’s impulse to connect what modernity had fragmented (in society and in self) was a direct response to urgent issues of conflict and disconnection.