A Travelling Colonial Architecture: Home and Nation in Selected Works by Patrick White, Peter Carey, Xavier Herbert and James Bardon

Author: Stephen James Thomas Brock

Brock, Stephen James Thomas, 2003 A Travelling Colonial Architecture: Home and Nation in Selected Works by Patrick White, Peter Carey, Xavier Herbert and James Bardon, Flinders University, Department of Cultural Studies

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Abstract

This thesis is a study of constructions of home and nation in selected works by Patrick White, Peter Carey, Xavier Herbert and James Bardon. Drawing on the work of postcolonial theorists, it examines ways in which the selected texts engage with national mythologies in the imagining of the Australian nation. It notes the deployment of racial discourses informing constructions of national identity that work to marginalise Indigenous Australians and other cultural minority groups. The texts are arranged in thematic rather than chronological order. White’s treatment of the overland journey, and his representations of Aboriginality, discussed in Chapter One, are contrasted with Carey’s revisiting of the overland journey motif in Oscar and Lucinda in Chapter Two. Whereas White’s representations of Indigenous culture in Voss are static and essentialised, as is the case in Riders in the Chariot and A Fringe of Leaves, Carey’s representation of Australia’s contact history is characterised by a cultural hybridity. In White’s texts, Indigenous culture is depicted as an anachronism in the contemporary Australian nation, while in Carey’s, the words of the coloniser are appropriated and employed to subvert the ideological colonial paradigm. Carey’s use of heteroglossia is examined further in the analysis of Illywhacker in Chapter Three. Whereas Carey treats Australian types ironically in Illywhacker’s pet emporium, the protagonist of Xavier Herbert’s Poor Fellow My Country, Jeremy Delacy, is depicted as an expert on Australian types. The intertextuality between Herbert’s novel and the work of social Darwinist anthropologists in the 1930s and 1940s is discussed in Chapter Four, providing a historical context to appreciate a shift from modernist to postmodernist narrative strategies in Carey’s fiction. James Bardon’s fictional treatment of the Papunya Tula painting movement in Revolution by Night is seen to continue to frame Indigenous culture in a modernist grammar of representation through its portrayal of the work of Papunya Tula artists in the terms of ‘the fourth dimension’. Bardon’s novel is nevertheless a fascinating postcolonial engagement with Sturt’s architectural construction of landscape in his maps and journals, a discussion of which leads to Tony Birch’s analysis of the politics of name reclamation in contemporary tourism discourses.

Keywords: Australian literature,postcolonial theory,race and nation,home and nation,nationalism,identity,representations of Indigenous culture,racism,national mythologies,contact history,explorers,overland journey,constructions of Aboriginality,imagining nation
Subject: Australian Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2003
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Associate Professor Lyn Jacobs, Associate Professor Rick Hosking