‘Kin-fused’ Revenge : Alter/Native Canon in Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife

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Year of publication 2021
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In the talk I will explore one of the many rewritings of Australian colonial writer Henry Lawson’s iconic short story “The Drover’s Wife” (1892)—the play The Drover’s Wife (2016) written by Aboriginal actor, writer and director Leah Purcell. The main source for Purcell’s rewriting is a much larger and more significant presence of Indigeneity. The play not only introduces the character of Yadaka, an Aboriginal fugitive, as a key character, but the drover’s wife herself is revealed to have Indigenous origins. This powerful twist offers several implications: the paly, a tour de force of frontier violence with haunting images of racism, rape, lynching, and murder, unflinchingly confronts the very foundations of established literary canon as well as settler belonging, providing an alter/Native to both. I borrow Fiona Probyn-Rapsey’s term “kin-fused” to argue that the play’s resolution implies a critique of Indigenous-settler reconciliation by pointing to a lingering desire to redress colonial violence, embodied in the play by a promise of “kin-fused” revenge.
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