Colonial mythmakers : the development of the realist tradition in Australian literature

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McLaren, John (1980) Colonial mythmakers : the development of the realist tradition in Australian literature. Westerly, 25 (2). pp. 43-50. ISSN 0043-342X


In this paper McLaren discusses the development of the realist tradition in Australian literature during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Three characteristics emerge from any reading of Australian literature written during this period. One is the predominance of the rural environment and the lack of any real engagement with the life of the cities, despite the fact that Australia was already one of the most highly urbanised societies in the world. The second is the uneasiness about the status of the hero. The third is ambivalence towards the Aboriginal inhabitants of the country, or the total lack of any awareness of their existence. Discussed is the work of Australian novelist such as Clarke, Boldrewood, Kingsley, Lawson and Furphy. It was not until the later part of the twentieth century that Australian writers were able to liberate their identity from its parochial restrictions. Katherine Prichard saw the contradictions implicit in the act of settlement and its consequent ideologies. Christina Stead faced the urban environment. Patrick White subsumes the realities of settlement and exploration, Aboriginal conflicts and urbanisation in a new order of mythology which makes them accessible to our intelligence. Xavier Herbert takes the confrontation of black and white as his subject, locating the bush ideal not in the brutality of history to the present but in a possible future in which the reality of conquest may be expiated by white society abandoning its urban dominance and voluntarily accepting the pattern of Aboriginal meaning.

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Original paper is of poor quality.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 2005 Literary Studies
Current > Collections > McLaren Papers
Keywords Australian literature, urban journalism, novels, bush writing, outlaws, bushrangers, squatters, naturalism, MCLAREN-BOXD7-DOC5
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