Portrayals of Indigeneity in Australian Historical Novels (1989-2009): New Portrayals of Indigeneity in Australian Historical Novels

By Amanda Johnson.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Michael Dodson has commented that the ‘repossession of our past is the repossession of ourselves’ – yet since the 1980s, the translation of such sentiments within Australian historical novels has often been informed by didactic, politically-correct responses to postcolonial theoretical dogma. Controversial, often agonistic debates have surrounded both black and white renderings of Australian pasts within literary cultures. This paper argues that the notion of intercultural subjectivity, as put forward by Australian Indigenous cultural critic, Professor Marcia Langton, has enabled a timely post-millennial re-evaluation of Spivakian notions of subject positions and orthodox theories of otherness. Langton’s influential ideas have been reflected by less prescriptive approaches to the portrayal of Indigenous material by both black and white writers. I will show how the recent novels of Peter Carey, Kim Scott, Murray Bail, Kate Grenville and other novelists, in keeping with Langton’s cultural framework, have opened debates about the re-presentation of the colonial archive and portrayals of Indigeneity.

Keywords: Postcolonialism, Contact Zones, Contemporary Australian Culture, Colonial Imaginaries, Australian Contemporary Fiction, Historical Novels

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.149-162. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 806.695KB).

Dr. Amanda Johnson

Lecturer, The School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

A Frances Johnson’s is a writer and painter with research interests in postcolonialism, cultural memory, and modernism. She taught writing for seven years at the University of Melbourne. Amanda has a Masters in painting from Victorian College of the Arts, and a Masters in creative writing from the University of Melbourne and has completed her PhD thesis on the representation of indigenous voices in Australian historical novels (1989-2006). Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in Westerly, Southerly, Meanjin, The New Antigone, Space, Strange, Antithesis and Arena Magazine, and her paintings have been shown in Indonesia and Australia. She has been the recipient of Asialink and Arthur Boyd Bundanon residencies in painting, and an Australia Council Literature Board grant for the development of a new narrative-based history of nylon. Her novel Eugene’s Falls, (Arcadia 2007) about colonial painter, Eugene Von Guerard, unites her interests in the links between official art histories, biography, and cultural memory. A book of poetry, The Pallbearer’s Garden, was published by Whitmore Press in late 2007.


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