The cyclone written into our place: the cyclone as trope of apocalypse and place in Queensland literature

Spicer, Chrystopher J. (2018) The cyclone written into our place: the cyclone as trope of apocalypse and place in Queensland literature. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Working within a physical landscape that has felt the impact of tropical cyclones and cyclone surges for some 6000 years, including the largest loss of life from a single cyclone in Australian recorded history, Queensland writers have for many years attempted to incorporate both the terror and the sublime of the cyclone into their sense of place. Yet, while studies have been carried out into the significance of cyclonic storms in the literature of other geographic areas, there has been surprisingly little examination until this thesis of the literature of tropical cyclones in Queensland, one of the most cyclone-prone areas in the world.

The tropical cyclone is so integral to North Queensland place and regional life that it has its own season. To successfully inhabit this place, the Queenslander must live with cyclones, incorporating them into the imaginary as well as the literal life: into the country of the mind as well as the physical environment. In this region of seasonal storm, the cyclone is a defining trope of the literary place, and so it is important to examine its significance there. Cyclones as unpredictable wreakers of chaos and destruction regularly remind us of humankind's fragility. Although warnings can be given of their approach, the severity of their impact is in the end due to those natural and invisible elements that cannot be controlled. In an effort to cope with the uncontrollable, humankind seeks meaning in the random meaninglessness of chaos and destruction. For some, cyclones are instruments of divine retribution, whereas for others they are an apocalyptic event that reveals the chance for redemption and renewal, and it is such searches for meaning within chaos that are evident in Queensland literature.

Some writers, such as Queensland Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge, have seen within cyclones the Burkean sublime, the beauty within the terror. For other writers, such as Thea Astley, Vance Palmer, and Patrick White, the cyclone brings spiritual epiphany and personal revelation, while also motivating community strength and compassion as people ignore differences and work together to survive and rebuild. Some writers see the cyclone within themselves as a personal trope, as Susan Hawthorne observes in her poetry. Other writers such as Alexis Wright see a deep and abiding spiritual bond between weather and country, between people and place, which speaks of our future as well as our past. This paper, then, will examine how writers in Queensland and of Queensland have sought for meaning within their literary landscape in order to cope with the chaos of their literal place.

The metaphorics and aesthetics of tropical cyclones permeate Queensland literature. The cyclonic storm in Queensland literature reverberates with contexts of theme and setting, of plot and place, of tropes and tropics that encompass the complicated and symbiotic relations between society, nature, landscape, place and space. The cyclonic storm is a literary trope of both personal and collective awareness, of revelation within the stillness and spirituality of the cyclone's eye that enables the individual to emerge from the experience transformed. To transcend the tropical cyclone experience, one needs to be open to the epiphany of the revelation as these violent storms strip away the historic human over-growth, leaving room to re-build and for new life to grow. Cyclones can in this way narrate resilience in the face of natural disaster and allegorize the power of cultural consciousness to strengthen and unify communities and regions. Individuals and communities who have been alienated, weakened, or seemingly destroyed can be drawn closer by cyclonic events, discovering in the aftermath that which had previously been hidden, discovering hope and opportunity where previously were despond and despair. Such events and the stories of them can challenge previous human experience, thereby providing opportunity to move forward and rebuild, opportunity for the emergence of the new.

While this research is concerned with the implications of the literary cyclone in Queensland, this thesis will also recognize that cyclonic storms and the literature of those storms appear in many other regions. The search for meaning within that literature is a search in which many are engaged around the globe, as we broaden our perception through revelations about the relationship between the individual, society, and the tropical biosphere, and between weather, person, and place.

Item ID: 63816
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: cyclones, Queensland literature, tropics, tropical storms, apocolypse, climatic tropes, Australian literature
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Chrystopher J. Spicer.
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2020 03:56
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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