The Past, Present and Future in Contemporary Australian Eco-memoir

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Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In modern Australian memoir, the narratives of the self are often framed with narratives of specific landscapes, places, regions. This interweaving of place- and self-narration has a long tradition which goes back to the late 19th century formation of a distinct national identity for settler Australians. In this tradition, settler belonging (both national and personal) is inseparably tied to the process of place-making, which is, however, heavily marked by the history of European colonization and dispossession of Indigenous people. Thus, life writing in Australia is also inescapably political. My presentation will examine recent Australian landscape and eco-memoir, making references particularly to Mark Tredinnick’s The Blue Plateau: An Australian Pastoral (2009), Tim Winton’s Island Home: A Landscape Memoir (2015), Kim Mahood’s Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories (2016) and Angela Rockel, Rogue Intensities (2019) as representative examples of a range of strategies adopted by settler authors to articulate their sense of belonging which in Australia remains contested. Tredinnick makes a collective tribute to a place and its people, celebrating the symbiosis through minute, staged histories of forgotten families, while inscribing his self in the larger history of Australian settlement. Mahood’s multimodal landscape memoir interweaves narratives of the self, the process of representing quintessential Australian landscape—the Outback—in her own artwork, while framing all of that with a commentary on current politics of Indigenous-settler relationships. Finally, Rockel wrote a highly poetic, experimental journal documenting five years of her life spent in rural Tasmania and recording her observations of nature, farming, family and community, history, mythology, and literature. I will argue that these eco-memoirs capture Australian settlers’ strategy of securing a legitimate sense of belonging through an intimate knowledge of their environments, while often tiptoeing around, if not evading, the continuing, and still largely unmet, calls for the sovereignty of Indigenous Country.
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