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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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5. The End of the Rainbow 169


Chapter Five The End of the Rainbow and you can ask any sailor and the keys from the jailor and the old men in wheelchairs know that Matilda's the defendant, she killed about a hundred and she follows you wherever you may go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing Matilda with me. Tom Waits, "Tom Traubert's Blues" Continued focus upon topics of environment, convictism, and Aboriginal encounter has established a number of locations which may be called traditional in the Australian novel. In citing them, a writer instantly signals either a recourse to a cluster of established meanings or, better, an intention to ask questions at a site recognized to have yielded meaning in the past. Such topics encourage broad-scale interrogation of collective assumptions and experiences, both within a particular work and, by now, in relation to other works of similar focus or address. Thus, examinations of personal and national self-definition may take advantage of postures and gestures which have long outlasted the specific historical circumstances that directed their origins. Just as convict laborers, for example, left their marks upon the architectural faces of modern Sydney, Hobart, and Perth, so have long traditions of thinking about convicts left their marks upon modern configurations of Australian culture: among the many types of behavioral influence at work in modern Australia, there remain curious recollections of colonial ambiguity and divided loyalty. Outward conformity and inward restlessness, assertive sociability and laconic self-assertion, anti-intellectual leveling and gracefully assured skill-all characterize the development of taste...

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