Bloom (novel) ; and So where to now?: the female Bildungsroman and the missing child (dissertation)

Keryn Clark

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Bloom is a fictional autobiography narrated from the perspective of South African Grace Little who immigrates to Australia in the last years of Apartheid. Grace, runner, writer and self-‐confessed coward with an acute fear of bridges, returns to Canberra on a four day research trip after an absence of 20 years. She is writing a book about flying ants, a troubled African country and the experience of migration but suffers from writer's block. Many things haunt Grace; a disappearing mother, the loss of family, country, the collapse of her marriage and the memory of a pair of butterfly wings. She returns to Canberra in the hope of making sense of her fractured life. As she runs loops of Lake Ginninderra, Grace's life is revealed through flashback and fragmented memories as she meditates on friendships, motherhood, betrayal and homesickness. In June 1976 Grace sleeps through the Soweto riots that would begin the political upheaval in the country and lead to her reluctant immigration. But the riots have also affected the lives of other characters whose stories are told through Grace's recollections. They are Barbara, a black woman who befriends Grace, Simon, a would-‐be Jewish activist who wants to sleep with Grace and Walter, a black freedom fighter with a penchant for Russian dolls who lives next door to Grace in a grubby building at the beach. However it is Hèléne, a Melbourne lesbian who changes the way Grace thinks about her experiences and how they link to the memory of one night in November 1961, the night she wore the butterfly wings. The novel is loosely based on my life under Apartheid, my years in London as an exile and as an Australian immigrant. My exegesis is a meditation on Grace's loops of memory and shame, which are linked to ideas of place, loss and belonging. I consider the writing process in and through the works of authors Nadine Gordimer and Phaswane Mpe amongst others and draw on recent theorising on shame, trauma and abjection to reflect critically on how South Africa, and in particular the suburb of Hillbrow in which Grace grows up, has been represented in the knowledge of Apartheid and (post) Apartheid. It also seeks to examine the relationship between narrative and the self in very specific ways; of Bloom as fictive autobiography and of Grace as a white South African immigrant whose experiences complicate both easy assumptions of privilege and traditional modes of story telling such as the Bildungsroman.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


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