Un-Australian fictions: nation, multiculture(alism) and globalisation 1988-2008

Helen Pavlides

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis sets out to analyse a subset of contemporary Australian literary fictions published between 1988-2008: a period which is referred to as a "coming of age" for Australia. During these twenty years the country moved on from the bicentennial celebrations of British settlement and into a new millennium. Such progress occurred during sober and unsettling times, when a new transnational era meant that the relationships of territory to borders, as well as the association between space and capital were being realigned. Already accorded the status of national obsession, issues of national identity, were vigorously contested. Concepts such as nation, multiculturalism and globalisation became topics for heated discussion in the public sphere. These words were appropriated by interest groups throughout this period to put forward their claims as to what constituted "real"national belonging. Therefore, from 1988 onwards to name who someone was, as well as what he/she represented as being Australian became a mounting problem of definition. Australia‘s literary communities were not immune or isolated from the ongoing discussions in the wider public sphere.

All the texts read in this thesis have already been recognised for their literary merit. Consequently, this thesis sought to read for literary value whilst also recognising the textual politics of race, class, gender and colonisation—that are inherent in the unique literary worlds created by these various contemporary Australian authors. To that end, a subset of "un-Australian fictions" was created. This subset represents the challenges and breachings which these texts, in their own unique way, bought to Australian myths of nation: traditions such as masculism; a bush ethos; the pre-eminence of white colonial settlement; connectedness to an imaginative European geography; as well as an unbreakable tie to Britain. As un-Australian fictions, these texts reflect the destabilisation of what were once certain, spatial and psychic borders and orders of Australianness. They affect as well as reflect, the wider conversation that continues today about what being Australian means in a new millennium. In discussing these un-Australian fictions, I seek to interweave two disparate discourses: the nation‘s political and social discourse i.e. the public realm and the subjective, private and fictionalized discourse in the world of the author. Both nationally and internationally, during a time of escalating fear and conservatism, Australian literature through its un-Australian fictions reclaimed and legitimated many and diverse ways of being Australian. This thesis has been written with the hope of acknowledging this fact.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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