South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia

South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia

South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia

South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia

Synopsis

"... some of the finest of Ross Gibson's essays across ten years of thinking about Australia... " -- Media Information Australia

In this study of Western aesthetics and the politics of everyday life, Ross Gibson offers provocative analyses of Australia's films and examines an array of objects and attitudes encountered in his southern locale. His twelve chapters interweave to form an essay on the realignment of space, time, and meaning in contemporary Western societies. Gibson demonstrates how these different systems of representation construct "Australia."

Excerpt

Australia

Last sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space,
Are you a drift Sargasso, where the West
In halcyon calm rebuilds her fatal nest?
Or Delos of a coming Sun-God's race?
Are you for Light, and trimmed, with oil in place,
Or but a Will o' Wisp on marshy quest?
A new demesne for Mammon to infest?
Or lurks millennial Eden 'neath your face?

The cenotaphs of species dead elsewhere
That in your limits leap and swim and fly,
Or trail uncanny harp-strings from your trees,
Mix omens with the auguries that dare
To plant the Cross upon your forehead sky,
A virgin helpmate Ocean at your knees.

This poem from the turn of the century, by Bernard O'Dowd (1866-1953), has launched innumerable English Literature classes in Australian secondary schools. The arresting first line stays in the mind for decades between readings. Because of the élan of the intial image, one always remembers the poem as a Western-imperial creed, taking as given the idea that Australia waited through millennia of destiny until the English "discovered" it into existence late in the eighteenth century. In effect, therefore, the opening line is too arresting, because it stops one's remembrance of the sophisticated skepticism that bubbles through the rest of the first stanza. On rereading, one notices that the poem abounds with questions. And they emphasize the South's status as a conundrum for . . .

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