Threshold to fulfilment: the Barrier Reef writings of E.J. Banfield and Jean Devanny

Taylor, Cheryl (2004) Threshold to fulfilment: the Barrier Reef writings of E.J. Banfield and Jean Devanny. Antipodes, 18 (1). pp. 18-23.

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When Matthew Flinders named the Barrier Reef, he saw it as a boundary, shielding the Queensland coast from the landward march of the Pacific rollers. To later colonists the inner and outer reefs were a boundary in a different sense, an impediment both to coastal navigation and the northern trade routes. By contrast, the indigenous name, "sea country" (Love 94-96), embraces the complex abundance of Barrier Reef waters as worthy of attention for its own sake. This perception is paralleled by the more disinterested of the scientific descriptions that followed the European explorations. As a paradoxical term, "sea country" further suggests the outer reef's status as a natural limen, or threshold, on three planes: interrupting the line of the horizon with its jagged formations; broadening the margin of interaction between land and sea; and marking the edge of descent between the continental shelf and the deep ocean.

Spanning the first half of the twentieth century, E.J. Banfield's and Jean Devanny's accounts of the "sea country" resonate with theories of limina developed in the 1970s by the anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner. The Turners built on the work of Arnold van Gennep to define limina geographically as neutral zones existing between the boundaries of two regions. Culturally speaking, they are ambiguous transitional states, the central phases in rituals such as marriage or manhood initiation, which aspirants usually spend in seclusion or the wilderness, spaces where they are free from the rigid determinism of daily existence. Experimental models for new social formations originate in limina, which are profoundly creative and re-creative for both individuals and society. These ideas are applicable to Banfield's and Devanny's positioning in North Queensland, as their writings shaped radically new versions of regional life and landscapes. They are especially applicable to the reefscape as the ultimate liminal experience evoked in their respective oeuvres.

Item ID: 5760
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0893-5580
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Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2009 03:30
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950399 Heritage not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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