The Perceptual Space of Australian Fiction

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I intend to trace some paths into what Stephen Muecke calls in Reading the Country, ‘a poetry of fragmentation, contradiction, unanswered questions, specificity, fluidity and change’.

The preferred domains of contemporary fictocriticism—‘speculation, curiosity and the concrete’ —can be seen at the margins of the Australian novel where the mutable qualities of space in the textual field and a poetics of the animated qualities of an environment are implicated, each with the other. These qualities provoke human attention and provide extra-cognitive literacy for sensation not best suited to our practical ends.

Perception is a virtual act. It involves mind (and narrative) choosing to rest upon or bypass images that have been launched in the direction of perception. Literary perception of space in the examples that I offer in this chapter entails taking on the characteristics of extension, which belongs to images of space as experienced. The spatialized image of figure and ground, and the narrator’s situatedness, might extend towards memory, to the history of contact, settlement, and displacement. Moreover, the urban and pastoral spaces alert to the longue durée, Dreamtime or both, invoke conscious states of the present attentive to ecologies and to a multiplicity of external objects. This chapter remains alert to intensities that are either physical or psychological as the fictional spaces admit them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel
EditorsNicholas Birns
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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