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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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Notes 243


Notes Chapter One The political and economic motives of settlement are generally agreed upon (Rickard 24-25), but the proportion to which they entered considerations and generated policies is a matter of continuing debate. Blainey (Tyranny 24) cites Dallas in emphasizing the search for naval stores; Bolton (99-100, 104) describes interests in granting land to American Loyalists exiled in Canada and England and in pre-empting the claims of other nations; Taylor (15-16) concludes that the most compelling reason for the methods of Australian colonization was the need to relieve the pressure on crowded English prisons. 2 Harry Harbord Morant was known in Australia as a bush poet before he was executed by the British for killing prisoners during the Boer War. The nationalistic implications of his trial are emphasized grandly in Bruce Beresford's film Breaker Morant (1980). 3 In a famous passage, Such Is Life condemns the "slender-witted, virgin-souled, overgrown schoolboys who fill Henry Kingsley's exceedingly trashy and misleading novel with their insufferable twaddle" (205). The vocabulary is nice: "insufferable twaddle" is a genteel English phrase that Furphy' s teamsters would hardly use. It suggests that Hamlyn is so far removed from real experience that Australians do not even have terms to describe its fantasies. Chapter Two The Dutch East India Company orders of 1617 required ships to sail almost due eastward from the Cape of Good Hope, turning north at the longitude of Java (Schilder 57-60). Only a slight over-length in the eastward course would put the northward leg in...

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