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Australian Literature Honours B: Undisciplined Histories (ASLT4012)
Semester 1, Semester 2 / 2009

Texts

The History Wars!$!McIntyre, Stewart and Anna Clark!$! Carlton, Vic!$!Melbourne U P!$!c.2004
y separately published work icon Benang : From the Heart Kim Scott , Fremantle : Fremantle Press , 1999 Z135862 1999 single work novel (taught in 31 units) 'Oceanic in its rhythms and understanding, brilliant in its use of language and image, moving in its largeness of spirit, compelling in its narrative scope and style, Benang is a novel of celebration and lament, of beginning and return, of obliteration and recovery, of silencing and of powerful utterance. Both tentative and daring, it speaks to the present and a possible future through stories, dreams, rhythms, songs, images and documents mobilised from the incompletely acknowledged and still dynamic past.' (Publisher's website)
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y separately published work icon Sorry Gail Jones , Milsons Point : Vintage Australia , 2007 Z1380261 2007 single work novel (taught in 9 units)

'In the remote outback of Western Australia during World War II, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife, Stella, raise a lonely child, Perdita. Her upbringing is far from ordinary: in a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education.

'Emotionally adrift, Perdita becomes friends with a deaf and mute boy, Billy, and an Aboriginal girl, Mary. Perdita and Mary come to call one another sister and to share a very special bond. They are content with life in this remote corner of the globe, until a terrible event lays waste to their lives.' (Publisher's blurb)

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y separately published work icon The Secret River Kate Grenville , Edinburgh : Canongate , 2006 Z1194031 2006 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 69 units)

'In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.

'But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.

'Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them.

'Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

'Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.' (From the publisher's website.)

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Waverley, or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since'!$!Scott, Walter!$! Boston!$!Bradford and Read!$!1815
y separately published work icon Remembering Babylon David Malouf , London Milsons Point : Chatto and Windus Random House , 1993 Z452447 1993 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 48 units)

'In the mid-1840s, a thirteen-year-old boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore in the far north of Australia and taken in by Aborigines. Sixteen years later, when settlers reach the area, he moves back into the world of Europeans, men and women who are staking out their small patch of home in an alien place, hopeful and yet terrified of what it might do to them.

Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the children who originally made contact with him, Gemmy seems at first to be guaranteed a secure role in the settlement, but there are currents of fear and mistrust in the air. To everyone he meets - from George Abbot, the romantically aspiring young teacher, to Mr Frazer, the minister, whose days are spent with Gemmy recording the local flora; from Janet McIvor, just coming to adulthood and discovering new versions of the world, to the eccentric Governor of Queensland himself - Gemmy stands as a different kind of challenge, as a force which both fascinates and repels. And Gemmy himself finds his own whiteness as unsettling in this new world as the knowledge he brings with him of the savage, the Aboriginal.' - Publisher's blurb (Chatto & Windus, 1993).

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y separately published work icon Sixty Lights Gail Jones , London : Harvill Press , 2004 Z1136231 2004 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 15 units)

'Sixty Lights is the captivating chronicle of Lucy Strange, an independent girl growing up in the Victorian world. From her childhood in Australia through to her adolescence in England and Bombay and finally to London, Lucy is fascinated by light and by the new photographic technology. Her perception of the world is passionate and moving, revealed in a series of frozen images captured in the camera of her mind's eye showing her feelings about love, life and loss. In this confident, finely woven and intricate novel Jones has created an unforgettable character in Lucy; visionary, gifted and exuberant, she touches the lives of all who know her.' (Publication summary)

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y separately published work icon Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1988 Z359704 1988 single work novel (taught in 7 units)

'Oscar Hopkins is an Oxford seminarian with a passion for gambling. Lucinda Leplastrier is a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass. The year is 1864. When they meet on the boat to Australia their lives will be forever changed ...'

(Source: Publisher's website)

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y separately published work icon The White Earth Andrew McGahan , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2004 Z1113518 2004 single work novel (taught in 14 units)

'His father dead by fire and his mother plagued by demons of her own, William is cast upon the charity of his unknown uncle - an embittered old man encamped in the ruins of a once great station homestead, Kuran House. It's a baffling and sinister new world for the boy, a place of decay and secret histories. His uncle is obsessed by a long life of decline and by a dark quest for revival, his mother is desperate for a wealth and security she has never known, and all their hopes it seems come to rest upon William's young shoulders. But as the past and present of Kuran Station unravel and merge together, the price of that inheritance may prove to be the downfall of them all. The White Earth is a haunting, disturbing and cautionary tale.' (publisher's website)

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Description

This seminar examines a range of true fictions about the past that circulate in the public domain as literature. Students will read a diverse array of historical fictions in the light of ideas drawn from theorists of literature and historiography. In what ways have historians deployed literary devices? How have literary authors shaped the novel both as a genre of public history and as a form of historigraphic metafiction? What is gained and/or lost by packaging and disseminating history as fiction? What can be learned by using literary theory and textual analysis to understand the dynamics of scholarly historical narrative? And finally, how have literary authors and their critics become entangled in Australia's on-going history wars.

Assessment

All students will submit a long essay on a topic to be approved. Essays are 15000 words in length. Each semester option is assessed by a 4000 word essay.

Other Details

Levels: Undergraduate - Honours
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