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16 - Whiteness, Aboriginality and Representation in the Twentieth-Century Australian Novel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2023

David Carter
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

Where in the nineteenth century the representation of Aboriginal characters and things was occasional and marginal in the Australian novel, the twentieth century saw a new attention to Aboriginal characters. The twentieth century saw Australia’s foundation in 1901 marred by the emergence of the White Australia policy, which excluded migrants of colour and indirectly affected Aboriginal policy. So would begin a vexed erotics of miscegenation. In her short fiction, Katharine Susannah Prichard would deal with cross-race relations in northern Australia before producing her influential novel Coonardoo in 1929. Nearly a decade later, Xavier Herbert published Capricornia (1938), an epic northern Australian novel concerned with assimilation. Each of these novels is concerned with the field of discursive Aboriginality as a fantasy space for negotiations of appropriate whiteness and identity, as is Eleanor Dark’s Timeless Land trilogy (1941–53) and even works by Patrick White such as Voss (1957) and A Fringe of Leaves (1976), to finally mark the beginning of what has been called post-Mabo fiction in David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon (1993). This chapter tracks these examples of Aboriginal as represented in Australian novels and more ‘minor’ ones along the way.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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