Issue Details: First known date: 2011 2011
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'In Wings of the Kite-Hawk (2003) and The Red Highway (2009), Australian travel writer Nicholas Rothwell describes his visits to a series of archives - libraries, memorials, history and natural history collections, art galleries, and antiquarian bookshops - in his quest for evidence of the great catastrophes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: these include the ongoing contact between European and Aboriginal Australia, the apparent extinction of traditional Aboriginal languages and cultures, desertification and the mass extinction of species, and that great engine of twentieth-century destruction and dispersal, the Second World War. In this paper I examine the role of the archive in Rothwell's writing by comparison with the work of German-born novelist, W.G. Sebald. In The Rings of Saturn (trans. 1998), Sebald uses the image of debris held in Saturn's gravitational field as a metaphor of the evidence of historical catastrophe, especially the great caesura of the Second World War and the Holocaust. In comparing Sebald and Rothwell, I examine Rothwell's sense of history: are the Second World War and the European colonisation of Australia singular events or part of an ongoing 'natural history of destruction'? In examining the ethical implications of comparing these historical traumas, the article draws upon Dominick LaCapra's distinction between absence and loss, which has been influential both in work on the Holocaust and on reconciliation and the Stolen Generations in Australia.' (Author's abstract)

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Last amended 30 May 2011