Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction

Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction

Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction

Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction

Synopsis

Contemporary women writers in these two societies are still writing about similar issues as did earlier generations of women, such as exclusions from discourses of nation, a problematic relationship to place and belonging, relations with indigenous people and the way in which women's subjectivity has been constructed through national stereotypes and representations. This book describes and analyses some contemporary responses to 'writing woman, writing place' through close readings of particular texts that explore these issues. Three main strands run through the readings offered in Writing Woman, Writing Place - the theme of violence and the violence of representational practice itself, the revisioning of history, and the writers' consciousness of their own paradoxical subject-position within the nation as both privileged and excluded. Texts by established writers from both Australia and South Africa are examined in this context, including international prize-winning novelists Kate Grenville and Thea Astley from Australia and Nadine Gordimer from South Africa, as well as those by newly-emerging and younger writers. This book will be of essential interest to students and academics within the fields of Postcolonial Literature and Women's Writing.

Excerpt

It has been suggested that it is ‘deeply unfashionable’ (Whitlock 2000:41) to engage with the notion of the settler subject and that little has been done to theorise this aspect of colonial and postcolonial identity. Indeed, Gillian Whitlock goes further in suggesting that there is ‘active hostility’ to the ‘inclusion of Australian, Canadian, South African and New Zealand colonial settlements in the framework of the postcolonial’ (Whitlock 2000:41). Yet, it seems to me to be a crucial project of post-colonial theory to examine the ways in which such ‘unsettled settlers’ (in J. M. Coetzee’s memorable phrase) inscribe, through their literary practices, their shifting and ambivalent identities and subjectivities, illuminating as it does the complex nature of resistance, complicity and representation.

Even more intricate, and presumably then more risky to examine, is the position within settler identities of the white or ‘post-colonising’ woman who can be seen to have an ‘in-between’ subjectivity, often caught between masculinist discourses of nationalism and a kind of maternal role involving compassion and reconciliation. At the same time, these women often share a history of violence with the indigenous colonised peoples, whether it be through exclusionary practices (being written out of history), through ‘domestic’ violence, or through entrenched attitudes of discrimination. Susan Sheridan, at the end of her study of Australian colonial women writers, suggests that ‘postcolonial feminists’ should explore those areas ‘on the faultlines where tensions and collusions between “sex”, “race” and “nation” become visible’ (Sheridan 1995:169). It is on this ‘faultline’ that this study is situated.

It is, indeed, these very concerns and issues, expressed in different ways, that often still surface in the writing of contemporary ‘white’ or nonindigenous women in the settler colonies. Such women writers are concerned to explore their relationship to place and to environmental issues, their relationships with indigenous people, and to respond to the often violent ways in which their subjectivity is, and has been, constructed. This book is an attempt to analyse and describe some of these contemporary responses to ‘writing woman, writing place’ through analyses of particular texts that explore these issues at an historical moment when both nations are undergoing radical . . .

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