'This is a thesis that takes the notion of 'unsettlement' in opposition to the settlement of English literature in Australia, and reads a number of remarkable colonial texts in this light. This is not a review of texts critical of settlement, such as may be found in Henry Lawson and others, though I do examine texts by canonical writers such as Charles Harpur and Dorothea Mackellar. I take Philip Mead's argument for a contemporary unsettlement of Australian literature as my starting point: in order to demonstrate the historical beginnings and resources of such unsettlement. Settlement literature is embodied in national anthologies - and more than one of my case study texts comes from such anthologies. Many of the texts derive from the life-writing genres of letters and diaries; I also consider a poem, a note, songs, a game, drawings, letters inscribed on clubs, and messages left on trees and water tanks. The texts are written by Indigenous, Chinese, and Anglo-Celtic Australians; their writers practise a range of literacies. The very broadening of the terms of literature that allows the inclusion of texts such as Ned Kelly's The Jerilderie Letter and Bennelong's 'Letter to Mr Philips', means a shift in focus to historical significance: I focus on the nature of the poetics of these texts. My emphasis is therefore on the constitution of individual texts as such: their grammar, punctuation, visuality and materiality. The key concept I employ is borrowed from French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari - that of assemblage — and I ask how these unusual assemblages work to disassemble settlement. In reading the punctuation, I also adapt Roland Barthes's theory of the punctum. Other key terms are deployed as necessary on a case-by-case basis (such as the neobaroque, in the final chapter).
The chapters are structured thematically, through a range of tropes that are theorised in relation to settlement. These are: the hunt, the plough, invention, secrets, boredom, the field, settlement itself, and homelessness. In each chapter I read one or two of the select texts (except for the last, in which I look at several) in terms of the chapter's theme. This thesis offers a 'new reading of colonial poetics': many of the texts have never previously been considered in terms of their specifically aesthetic features. I establish connections between canonical writers and those who are not usually considered writers at all. In focusing on the materiality of texts, within a context of poetics, this thesis attempts to open up the field of colonial poetry, and introduce new aesthetic possibilities.'
Source: University of Melbourne library catalogue.