The past is the present: a cross-cultural exploration of the literary displacement of Indigenous people using a relational discourse

McNamara, Noela (2010) The past is the present: a cross-cultural exploration of the literary displacement of Indigenous people using a relational discourse. Masters (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

The written word is a powerful tool of modern society with words having a positive or negative effect on readers depending on how they are used and how they are interpreted. They bring stories from the past to life and invite possibilities for visions into the future. When there is not a united language of understanding of that past or hopes for the future between parties, however, representation (or misguided) representation of people, places, times and events can occur with devastating cultural and social ramifications. I argue in this thesis that literary representation of Australia's Indigenous people in post-millennial fiction continues to effect their physical and mental displacement through a perpetual reflection of the enduring dominance of white characters. This issue is examined through a cross-cultural critique using a relational discourse designed as part of this thesis to engage with the voices of Indigenous writers, poets and critics.

The works discussed are three prize-winning post-millennial novels: A Journey to the Stone Country (2002) by Alex Miller, The White Earth (2004) by Andrew McGahan, and The Secret River (2005) by Kate Grenville. All three authors are extremely popular with the Australian public and used extensively within literary discourses. I argue that these authors, who sincerely believe they are serving the interests of Indigenous people by revisiting the colonial era to promote an 'informed' awareness of the past through fiction, are in fact further negating any sense of connection readers may have to the current displacement (and discrimination) suffered by Indigenous Australians through the use of negative stereotypical representation.

Literature has the potential for social change as well as entertainment. Negative (colonial) representations destroy the possibility of enhanced mental awareness beyond that of the preconceived (and often biased) limitation of a literary white lens thereby diminishing possibilities for social change.

The use of a relational discourse exposes obscure points of literary disjunction for Indigenous people, and enhances the potential for an expanded comprehension and consciousness.

Item ID: 39164
Item Type: Thesis (Masters (Research))
Keywords: Aboriginal Australians; Australian literature; cross-culture; culture; discourse; First Australians; Indigenous people; Indigenous representation; literary representation
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2015 23:26
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950203 Languages and Literature @ 100%
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