National and Environment in the Twentieth-Century Novel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This chapter focuses on how the word ‘environment’ became culturally prominent in the 1930s, and suggests that Australian novels from this period show the intrusion of the environment – as a signifier – in their basic imaginary structure. The word ‘environment’, and its attendant ideas, emerged as a refinement of the bush nationalism that preceded it, still funding a national settler identity, but now inflected with the sense of crisis that arose with the collapse of the world economy and the drift into cataclysmic global conflict. The distinctive usage of the environment that emerges in the 1930s was most explicitly expressed in the Jindyworobak valorisation of ‘Environmental Values’ and in the work of poets of that school. However, the importance of the word environment and its cluster of associations is also visible in the novelists from this time, including Xavier Herbert, Vance Palmer, Katharine Susannah Prichard, M. Barnard Eldershaw, Elyne Mitchell, J.K. Ewers, Patrick White, Peter Cowan and Randolph Stow. Drawing on the works of these writers, this chapter sketches a dialectic within mid-century Australia that figured the environment as, by turns, a vitalistic substance and a Darwinian struggle.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Australian Novel
EditorsDavid Carter
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781009090049
ISBN (Print)978-316-51485-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

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