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Re-imagining the Convicts: History, Myth and Nation in Contemporary Australian Fictions of Early Convictism

Staniforth, Martin John (2015) Re-imagining the Convicts: History, Myth and Nation in Contemporary Australian Fictions of Early Convictism. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the way in which a number of contemporary Australian novels use the contested figure of the early convict to reflect on, and participate in, the recent heated debates over Australian history and culture. It argues that while these novels represent an attempt to challenge the traditional narrative of the nation’s past promulgated by the Anglo-Celtic settler population, they predominantly reproduce rather than overturn the myths and stories that have been the hallmark of settler Australia. I examine the novels in three overlapping contexts: in relation to the way in which Australia’s convict history has shaped and influenced contemporary perceptions of nation and belonging; in relation to the tradition of convict fiction from Marcus Clarke onwards; and in relation to contemporary debates about Australian identity and history. I start with two contextual chapters: the first considers the foundational role of early convictism in creating the myths and stories that Anglo-Celtic Australians use to order their lives and how the convict legacy has left its mark on contemporary Australian society; the second examines the way in which early convict fiction established key aspects of settler history and identity, before considering how the genre of convict fiction responded to challenges to the nature of Australian society in the 1960s and 1970s. I then go on to examine critically the response of contemporary convict novels to the more fundamental challenges to traditional representations of Australian history and identity posed in the period immediately following the Bicentenary of British settlement, considering them in the contexts of Aboriginal dispossession, myths of exile and settler relationships to the land. I conclude that while these novels seek to reconceptualize the past they mostly fail to imagine an alternative vision for the country and consequently endorse rather than undermine the narratives they seek to challenge.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Australian Literature, Convicts, National Identity, Settler Mythology, History Wars
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Martin John Staniforth
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2015 16:23
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2017 01:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10463

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