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Voss: An Australian Geographical and Literary Exploration

History and Travelling in the Fiction of Patrick White


Elena Ungari

This study of Voss by the Anglo-Australian Patrick White analyses the historical novel, set in the 1850s and concerning Voss’s exploration of the interior of Australia, as a parable of the writer’s exploration of the Australian historical, social and cultural context of the 1950s. The study employs a variety of critical apparatus including a post-structuralist and postcolonial approach, which also encompasses linguistics, sociolinguistics and comparative studies. This multi-level critical aid allows the examination of four levels of exploration utilised by the author.

Following an analysis of the protagonist’s geographical movement into the desert and his personal transformation, the study moves on to an exploration of the narrative itself. It explores how the novel becomes subject to change, absorbing and contesting a variety of literary genres ranging from the ‘chronicle’ to the parable. Through this multi-level approach, the study demonstrates the variety of readings the novel stimulates and displays its rich intertextual and subtextual elements and links.

Introduction – Chapter One: From «chronicle» to novel – Chapter Two: Maps/Mapping. Historicizing geography – Chapter Three: Towards le récit de voyage: the transit of the historical novel? From the European Imperial romance to the «hybridized» text – Chapter Five: From the imperial romance to the quixotic tragedy: the «chronicle» of the anti-epic in the southern hemisphere – Genre and gender: from the masculine European epic to the feminine native epic – From «chronicle» to legend – Conclusions – References