Issue Details: First known date: 2014 2014
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'This essay presents a postcolonial, ecocritical reading of Australian author David Malouf's celebrated novel, An imaginary life (1978). By now an important name in contemporary postcolonial literature, Malouf has yet to be discussed as an author who attempts to explode both colonial and human-centred myths and tropes in a manner that promotes a linguistically sensitive, body- and nature-centred vision. As this essay will argue, Malouf's writing, in its critique of Enlightenment values that have led to the racial classification of humans and modernity's dismissal of the importance of the environment, advances a unique postcolonial and ecological aesthetic. One way in which An imaginary life interrogates Enlightenment values is through its interest in the figure of the “feral child”, a “discovery” or construction of the Enlightenment era itself. The term “feral child” derives from Linnaeus's category “Homo ferus”, appearing in the tenth edition of his Systema naturae (The system of nature). Classified alongside Linnaeus's racial human categories (like Homo Afer and Homo Europaeus), Homo ferus emerges concurrently with the colonial obsession with racial “otherness”. For Malouf, however, the feral human eludes the categorisation of taxonomy specifically and language in general: blurring the “human” and “nature”, it undermines the scientific classification of humankind, and without language, it embodies the possibility of human being-in-nature beyond the influence of symbolic enculturation. In An imaginary life, the wordless immersion of the feral child in the environment allegorises the novel's intention – to produce another form of language, a poetic, allusive language transcending classification and chronology, and enacting the unification of the “human” and the “natural”.' (Publication abstract)

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  • Appears in:
    y Scrutiny2 vol. 19 no. 2 2014 8116984 2014 periodical issue 2014 pg. 8-29
Last amended 28 Nov 2014 08:54:26