St Helena

Van Luyn, Ariella (2014) St Helena. [Creative Work]

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[Extract] Alec thinks of lying down and dying. But now he's off the boat and finally got some sun, he's not ready to go just yet. The glare flattens the colours, leaves the red sand washed out.

The warder lines the men up – 'Backs straight fuckers' – and they stare at the slabs of the prison while the Superintendent walks past them. Pennefather. His wife behind him. She's brought crocus and white alyssum from the mainland. She cradles a plant in front of her as she walks; her fingers interlock around the basin, turning pink at the tips. She's left more of them on the boat. The wind in the bay shredded the leaves and they hang in tatters. The plant she carries is one of the survivors. The Superintendent and his wife are taken away up the island in a cart pulled by a horse along a tramline.

Research Statement

Research Background Historical biofiction blurs the lines between historically verifiable fact and imaginative engagement with the past (Padmore 2017). For some, writing in this crossover genre requires keeping faith with readers by ‘not making things up’ (Ricketson 2010). Yet, this stance does not take into account the ways historical fiction writers may impose their subjectivity on accounts of the past (Mujica 2016), nor the narrative nature of representing the past (White 2004). How then might historical biofiction at once ‘keep faith’ with readers, while also acknowledging the complex act of representing the past?
Research Contribution A short work of historical biofiction, ‘St Helena’ takes as its main character Alec Forrester, one of a number of unionists who instigated the 1891 Queensland shearers’ strike, and uses imagination and historical sources to depict the period of Forrester’s life when he was imprisoned on penal island St Helena. Shifting focus to the ‘subjective internal world of the character’ (Lackay 2016), the work uses the device of focalisation – through Forrester’s point of view – to draw attention to the act of imagining the past, and the ways that fiction can present a source of ‘affective knowledge’ (Davies 2001).
Research Significance Historical biofiction experiments with techniques for evoking subjective, affective imaginaries of the past, and at the same time problematises the act of constructing them. This work extends the researcher’s experiments in historical biofiction, which has subsequently led to an Australia Council Grant (2018) for further development. Published in the literary journal Southerly, ‘St Helena’ depicts a character whose political idealism has been corrupted by the realities of colonial business endeavors. The work also featured in a collection of stories shortlisted in the Queensland Literary Awards (2012).
Item ID: 38063
Item Type: Creative Work (Original Work - Textual Work - NTRO)
Media of Output: Print
ISSN: 0038-3732
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Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2016 03:25
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing > 190402 Creative Writing (incl Playwriting) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950399 Heritage not elsewhere classified @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 50%
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