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See detailMythologizing the Past: The Significance of the ‘Insignificant’ in Kate Grenville’s The Secret River
Joubail, Houda ULg

Conference (2013, June 07)

The recent revelations about Australia’s colonial past, particularly the dispossession and the institutionalized maltreatment of the Aboriginal populations, have provoked an ontological and ... [more ▼]

The recent revelations about Australia’s colonial past, particularly the dispossession and the institutionalized maltreatment of the Aboriginal populations, have provoked an ontological and epistemological malaise affecting notably the sense of historical and cultural legitimacy previously enjoyed by settler Australians. This was a consequence of the work performed by progressive historians who endeavoured to lay bare the brutal foundations of the nation, thus confronting the settlers’ descendants with an array of harrowing truths difficult to reconcile with any foundational myth of pioneering heroism. This context of angst and guilt has given rise to a new literary trend, known as the “Sorry Novels”, which is informed by the wish to come to grips with the trauma of colonization by acknowledging the harm done to the Aborigines. In tackling the vexed issues of dispossession and frontier violence, Kate Grenville’s The Secret River (2005) ostensibly belongs to this well-intentioned literary trend. However, as one examines the novel carefully, one notices that vestiges of a mythologized past presently emerge. From mythologies of convictivism and hardship to pioneerism and ownership, the representation of the colonial past abounds with continuing references to a range of national myths that stand in marked contrast with the author’s avowed keenness to inscribe her novel within the framework of a genuine reconciliation. It is, therefore, my intention in this paper to conduct a close reading of The Secret River with a view to unveiling the unsettling significance of some representational strategies – which might at first glance appear as insignificant – and thus emphasising the ambivalence which characterises Grenville’s discourse about the colonial trauma. [less ▲]

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See detailNational Mythology and Colonial Trauma in Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country
Joubail, Houda ULg

Master's dissertation (2011)

In 1991 the Australian government instigated a process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. This process aimed at laying the foundations of a postcolonial nation through the ... [more ▼]

In 1991 the Australian government instigated a process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. This process aimed at laying the foundations of a postcolonial nation through the establishment of the truth about the past, the acknowledgment of the injustices inflicted on the natives, and the development of appropriate forms of justice. Hidden facts about dispossession and genocide were divulged thanks to various inquiries carried out throughout the country. Such hideous facts plunged settler Australians into angst and guilt and prompted many contemporary white novelists to tackle the hitherto taboo issue of colonialism and its legacies in their works. At first glance, this literary endeavour to deal with the darkest chapter in the Australian history appears as a genuine determination to confront the trauma of the colonial past. Nevertheless, a closer look at some contemporary Australian novels reveals an altogether different intention. My dissertation seeks to explore the fictional representations of colonialism and Aboriginal suffering in one of these novels, namely, Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country (2002), in order to emphasise how, through the use of subtle representational and discursive strategies, the author contrives to lessen the impact of the colonial violence. Annabelle Beck, a descendant of British settlers, and Bo Rennie, a former Aboriginal ringer, set out on a journey from Burranbah in Central Queensland to the sacred ground of the Jangga people. As the journey unfolds, a disturbing past of injustice and loss emerges. The two main protagonists are brought to discover their common history as members of neighbouring families. The exploration of their past culminates in the revelation of a massacre in which Bo’s ancestors were savagely killed by Annabelle’s grandfather and his friends. Admittedly, the author tackles the controversial issues of inter-racial relationships, dispossession, and the legacies of colonial violence, yet his approach is far from being postcolonial. The first part of the dissertation will, indeed, attempt to examine how he makes use of the representational strategies to portray the Aboriginal characters as uneducated, untrustworthy, and racist. Furthermore, this part will emphasise that Miller tends to dismantle colonial myths only to construct neo-colonial ones, particularly, the equal importance of European and Aboriginal heritages. This assumption of egalitarianism is, in fact, not as fair as it seems at first sight given the long history of injustices to which Aborigines were subjected. The second part of the dissertation is dedicated to the analysis of the author’s response to the colonial trauma. A close reading of the novel in the lights of trauma theories reveals that the author resists the full understanding and acknowledgement of the truth about the past. He, indeed, undermines his avowed intention of exposing the atrocities inflicted on Aboriginal people through a series of discursive strategies. The dissertation will mainly draw on Dominick LaCapra’s writings about trauma to suggest that Miller is caught within the process of what LaCapra refers to as “acting out”, that is to say the tendency to repress the traumatic past to avoid any critical confrontation. Therefore, though he apparently engages in the venture of exploring the colonial past, Miller advocates the law of silence, a law which is hardly compatible with the requirements of a true reconciliation. [less ▲]

Detailed reference viewed: 97 (14 ULg)