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Issue Details: First known date: 2002... 2002 Looking for Blackfellas' Point : An Australian History of Place
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Blackfellas' Point' lies on the Towamba River in south-eastern New South Wales. As the river descends rapidly from its source on the Monaro plains, it winds its way through state forest, national park and farming land. Around twenty-five kilometres before it reaches the sea, just south of Eden, it passes through Towamba, the small village in which Mark McKenna now owns eight acres of land. Mark's land looks across the river to Blackfellas' Point , once an Aboriginal camping ground and meeting place.'

Looking for Blackfellas' Point is a history that begins by looking across the river to arc of bush that is Blackfellas' Point. From there, Mark McKenna's gaze pans out - from the history of one place he knows intimately, to the history of one region and, ultimately, to the history of Australia's quest for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.'




  • Epigraph:

    In Memory of Hilda Dymphna Clark 1916-2000

    and Nancye Eileen McKenna 1927-1999

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

Connecting Guatemala, Australia and the World : Violence in Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Senselessness and Mark McKenna’s Looking for Blackfellas’ Point Mark Piccini , 2020 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 29 October vol. 35 no. 2 2020;

'This article uses Lacanian psychoanalysis to look past the enormous contextual differences between the politically-motivated mass murders and consequent genocide of the Maya in Guatemala during the Civil War, and the frontier massacres in Australia during colonisation, to locate important commonalities. In Horacio Castellanos Moya’s 2004 novel Senselessness, it identifies a libidinal investment in a Maya and Latin American Other as the site of the excessive enjoyment that Lacan calls jouissance: a projection responsible for love, hate and all varieties of discrimination. It identifies a similar investment in an Aboriginal Other in Mark McKenna’s 2002 nonfiction book Looking for Blackfellas’ Point. Castellanos Moya creates a narrator whose intense libidinal investment in the Maya Other’s suffering reveals not only the limits of reconciliation in Guatemala, but also how libidinal investments in Latin America as a site of literary jouissance trap the region between magic and violence. McKenna unearths a local narrative of denial in which Aboriginal Australians are cast as villains; this points to an ambivalent national narrative where Aboriginal Australians are either victims or victimisers, but always exceptional. What connects Guatemala, Australia and the world is a collective responsibility for the production of Others – of and for whom violence is expected.' (Publication abstract)

In Search of Emily Mark McKenna , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: Meanjin , Summer vol. 77 no. 4 2018; (p. 59-69)

'It was barely two pages: the story of the murder and midnight burial of a new-born ‘half-caste’ child on the far south coast of New South Wales in April 1864, witnessed by a 14-year-old domestic servant, Emily Wintle (née Gillespie). Of all the histories that I explored while writing Looking for Blackfellas’ Point (2002), it was this story that continued to unfold long after it was published, unsettling the memories of the families involved, revealing previously hidden details and shifting at the edges as more information came to light. What began as a subject of historical research became increasingly personal. In 2002 I knew little of Emily’s background or what happened to her after she gave evidence in court. I had only the fine detail of this one, long moment in her life. I had no idea of how the story had resonated in the lives of her descendants or how it had been passed on in family oral history down the years. The story that I originally saw as a metaphor for the ‘repression of the memory of Indigenous Australia’ became even larger and more mysterious after its telling. '  (Introduction)

On the Frontier : The Intriguing Dance of History and Fiction Tom Griffiths , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Conversation , 10 June 2015; Writing History 2015;
'This article is the second in a series examining the links, problems and dynamics of writing, recording and recreating history, whether in fiction or non-fiction.'
Archival Poetics : Writing History from the Fragments Camilla Nelson , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: TEXT Special Issue Website Series , April no. 28 2015;
'This paper examines ‘archival poetics’ in contemporary history and fiction writing, with a focus on Mark McKenna’s An eye for eternity: The life of Manning Clark, Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller: A new American life and Kim Scott’s Benang, from the heart. It investigates the ways in which the authors of these works move away from the forensic imaginary embodied in a certain kind of historiography’s approach to the archive, to create a more personal, powerful and situated kind of history writing. It argues that these works suggest that history is less about the sublime chaos of the past – which cannot be narrated without duplicity, damage or violence – than how we engage the past, which is, on reflection, an entirely different thing.' (Publication summary)
The Intriguing Dance of History and Fiction Tom Griffiths , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: TEXT Special Issue Website Series , April no. 28 2015;
'In this essay I explore the common ground of history and fiction, suggesting that they are a tag team, sometimes taking turns, sometimes working in tandem, to deepen our understanding and extend our imagination. But I also argue that there are times when the distinction between them is vital, and that it is incumbent on historians – on those who choose at certain moments to write history – to insist and reflect on the difference. I hope to create a context in which such explanations will not be misinterpreted as defending territory. In the course of the essay I refer to historians who write fiction and novelists who write history, and I draw especially on the work of the novelists Eleanor Dark and Kate Grenville, poet and historian Judith Wright, and the historians Inga Clendinnen, Grace Karskens and Ross Gibson.' (Publication summary)
History of Place and Timeliness Donna Lee Brien , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: Dotlit : The Online Journal of Creative Writing , November vol. 4 no. 2 2003;

— Review of Looking for Blackfellas' Point : An Australian History of Place Mark McKenna , 2002 single work non-fiction
Untitled Maggie Nolan , 2004 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Humanities Review , April no. 31/32 2004;

— Review of Looking for Blackfellas' Point : An Australian History of Place Mark McKenna , 2002 single work non-fiction
Hunters of Australia Mark Abley , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Times Literary Supplement , 21 February no. 5212 2003; (p. 6-7)

— Review of Black Sheep : Journey to Borroloola Nicholas Jose , 2002 single work prose ; In Denial : The Stolen Generations and the Right Robert Manne , 2001 single work criticism ; Looking for Blackfellas' Point : An Australian History of Place Mark McKenna , 2002 single work non-fiction ; Freedom Ride : A Freedom Rider Remembers Ann Curthoys , 2002 single work autobiography
Author Finds His Place in History Jennifer Moran , 2003 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 20 May 2003; (p. 7)
Book Examines 'Absurd Binary Division' in Our Opposing Views of History Jennifer Moran , 2003 single work column
— Appears in: Canberra Sunday Times , 19 October 2003; (p. 14)
Becoming Migloo Gillian Whitlock , 2004 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Ideas Market : An Alternative Take on Australia's Intellectual Life 2004; (p. 236-258)
The Unbearable (Im)Possibility of Belonging : Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth Martina Horáková , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature 2010; (p. 109-128)
This chapter explores ‘the ‘postcolonial uncertainty’ of settler belonging from the purely outsider’s perspective of someone who does not live in Australia but is nevertheless intrigued by the apparently disturbing dilemma of non-Indigenous Australians attempting to articulate a fulfilling relationship to their land.’ (p 110)
Archival Salvage : History’s Reef and the Wreck of the Historical Novel A. Frances Johnson , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , Special Issue vol. 11 no. 1 2011; (p. 1-21)
'In recent years debates about the ethics of portraying Indigenous subjects and subject matter have almost been superseded by circular debates about 'true' Australian history and who has the right to tell it. This has been disappointing in a context of the morally and formally imaginative speculations of historians such as Tom Griffiths, Fiona Paisley, Stephen Kinnane and Greg Dening, and also in a context of Indigenous studies Professor Marcia Langton's evidently too-hopeful calls for the activation of a shared cultural space. But as this local debate has become more heated, more public, the oddest spectacle of all in recent years was the recent lambasting of historical novelists.

Novelist Kate Grenville was a particular target of attack. Notable historians such as Mark McKenna, John Hirst and Inga Clendinnen vociferously condemned dramatic accounts of the past as anachronistic, unethical and, most curious of all in relation to the fictioneer's job description, untrue. I revisit the 'history wars' stoush to argue that these historians overlooked the suasion of broader, local political battles to determine and culturally enshrine particular narratives of Australian pasts; I argue that they also eschewed the linguistic turn of postmodernism and the contributions made therein by prominent historical scholars in their own field such as Hayden White and Dominic LaCapra. The paper finally shows how Grenville, Kim Scott and other novelists have engaged with colonial archival materials, deploying particular narrative techniques that enable them to generate compelling postcolonial dramatisations of colonial pasts. (Author's abstract)
Last amended 31 May 2017 17:47:06