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Issue Details: First known date: 2016... 2016 Orality and Narrative Structure in Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria
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'This essay proposes a narratological framework for Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2006). While many critics have commented on the novel’s ‘remarkable’ and ‘magisterial’ narrative voice, no one has sought to describe the narrative structure of the novel. This may be because Wright appears to defy diegetic conventions, making it hard to work out who the narrator/s and narratees are in the text. The clues to unravelling Carpentaria’s narratological puzzle, I suggest, are to be found in considering the sense of orality that Wright seeks to impose on the text. She uses both implicit and explicit strategies aimed at asserting the power and longevity of indigenous oral storytelling and knowledge systems over and against (‘white,’ Western) written systems. The narrative framework assists in this assertion of orality. I argue that the ‘main’ story of Carpentaria needs to be read as an embedded narrative, although this is difficult to recognise because the framing narrative is so minimal; it comprises just two short passages of capitalised text at the beginning of Chapters 1 and 2. The narratee of this framing narrative is a non-Aboriginal Australian, who is then forced to retreat to the edges of this extradiegetic space to ‘listen in’ to the grander tale that follows, the embedded narrative. Here, an altogether different Aboriginal narrator addresses captivated Aboriginal narratees. This framework, possibly unique in postcolonial fiction, allows Wright to position an indigenous oral storyteller at the centre of her story, freed from the constrictions of literary address that indigenous authors often remain captive to.' (Publication abstract)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    JASAL World Readers : The Transnational Locations of Australian Literature vol. 16 no. 2 2016 periodical issue

    'This issue opens with an important collection of writings on acclaimed novelist Alexis Wright. In ‘The Unjusticeable and the Imaginable’ Philip Mead aims to provide a deep context for Wright’s most recent work in terms of her engagement with questions of sovereignty. Mead takes up Wright’s claim that ‘The art of storytelling […] is a form of activism that allows us to work with our ideas through our imagination’ and through this lens tracks the conceptual paths through which Aboriginal sovereignty becomes imaginable. In ‘Orality and Narrative Invention in Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria,’ Geoff Rodoreda argues that the novel’s ‘narrative framework may well be a unique novelistic invention.’ Focusing on Wright’s use of voice in the novel, Rodoreda proposes that ‘Carpentaria … flatly rejects this paradigm of the inevitable demise of the oral upon contact with the written. What Alexis Wright does in her text is to take orality by the scruff of the neck, as it were, shake it free of all of its pejoratives and sneering deprecations, and boldly insert it back into the text, empowered.’ For Rodoreda, orality enables Wright to challenge the predominant role of written narrative in postcolonial settings, and ‘to portray a sovereign Aboriginal mindset in an authentically Indigenous storytelling mode.’' (Publication abstract)

Last amended 19 Jan 2017 11:01:48 Orality and Narrative Structure in Alexis Wright’s Carpentariasmall AustLit logo JASAL