Issue Details: First known date: 2009 2009
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'As a sample of the Australian female Gothic, critical discussion of Elizabeth Jolley's The Well (1986) has centrally focused on issues of gender, but not considered its racial inscription. This lack is especially relevant when criticism, despite praising the author's experimentation with narrative technique and genre, tends to voice dissatisfaction with the novel's conclusion in medias res, which never solves the tension between a presumed return to the patriarchal norm and the voicing of liberating alternatives.

After reviewing issues of genre, gender and class, this paper proposes a postcolonial perspective so as to come to terms with this dilemma, and argues that the text signals the impossibility of suppressing the Native from the contemporary Australian land and textscape, whose Gothic articulation in the uncanny shape of the male well-dweller haunts the novel's engagement with female empowerment. The female protagonist may only start overcoming a crippling gender discourse in the White postcolonial pastoralist setting by inscribing herself into 'Australianness'.

Reconciling her body with the land is significantly staged in terms of an Aboriginal cosmogony, as it is a 'walkabout' that allows Hester to start controlling her body and story. Thus, The Well may be understood to be inconclusive because it struggles to map gender across race at a time of Aboriginal-exclusive multiculturalism. Written in the mid 1980s, it announces a point of inflection in thinking about native-nonnative relationships which would soon lead to attempts at 'Reconciliation' by mainstream Australia.' (Author's abstract)

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Works about this Work

The Phantom and Transgenerational Trauma in Elizabeth Jolley’s 'The Well' M. Dolores Herrero , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Engaging with Literature of Commitment : The Worldly Scholar (Volume 2) 2012; (p. 201-216)
'Elizabeth Jolley's The Well, one of the most celebrated examples of the Australian female Gothic, can also be studied as a trauma novel. Set in the vast and dry postcolonial Australian countryside, the novel deals with the intense, traumatic, and somehow bordering on the homo-erotic, relationship between elderly and embittered Hester Harper, heiress to a large agricultural estate, and young and unformed Katherine, a sixteen-year-old orphan whom Hester unofficially adopted one day...' (From author's introduction 201)
The Phantom and Transgenerational Trauma in Elizabeth Jolley’s 'The Well' M. Dolores Herrero , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Engaging with Literature of Commitment : The Worldly Scholar (Volume 2) 2012; (p. 201-216)
'Elizabeth Jolley's The Well, one of the most celebrated examples of the Australian female Gothic, can also be studied as a trauma novel. Set in the vast and dry postcolonial Australian countryside, the novel deals with the intense, traumatic, and somehow bordering on the homo-erotic, relationship between elderly and embittered Hester Harper, heiress to a large agricultural estate, and young and unformed Katherine, a sixteen-year-old orphan whom Hester unofficially adopted one day...' (From author's introduction 201)
Last amended 16 Feb 2011 15:10:52
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