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The Australian Novel 1830-1980

A Thematic Introduction


John Scheckter

This volume introduces the reader to a powerful and rewarding territory: the Australian novel. Both drawing from and rebelling against the power of Europe. Australian writers asserted from the beginning that experience «down under» demands thorough observation and thoughtful expression. Exploration of the vast land, framed by the horrors of penal establishment and challenged by encounters with Aboriginal cultures, produced novels of irony and expectation, cynicism and celebration - works that demonstrate the flexibility and unflinching clarity that remain characteristically Australian down to the postcolonial present.


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Introduction 1


Introduction Without invention nothing is well spaced, unless the mind change, unless the stars are new measured, according to their relative positions, the line will not change, the necessity will not matriculate: unless there is a new mind there cannot be a new line ... William Carlos Williams, Paterson "And how should I presume?" asks Prufrock. This is a good question-cosmic, to be sure, but framed by a particular, threatened individual in a time of the breaking of nations. And how should I presume here, upon so many generalizations? This volume presumes to introduce the Australian novel of the period from 1830 to 1980. It presumes to outline general stances upon materials that are the topics of heated critical debate. It focuses upon texts, and presumes that readers enjoy them. It presumes to examine the nature of a national literature, at a time when "nation" is redefined continually, when terms such as "citizenship" and "nationalism" are increasingly slippery, and often inflammatory. And it presumes a reflection, claiming that an outsider's view will offer a useful perspective to Australian readers who have grown up with the circumstances and the texts it considers. The answer to how I presume, here though perhaps not in Eliot's sense, is that I intend to initiate processes of definition, to draw works together, and to draw readers to them, strengthening points in common and finding new ones. The presumptions are many, but the potential rewards outweigh them. We face a wide-ranging and complicated body of material. The...

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