'It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name, and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion.
Connecting the two events are the most celebrated explorer of the age, Sir John Franklin - then governor of Van Diemen's Land - and his wife, Lady Jane, who adopt Mathinna, seen as one of the last of a dying race, as an experiment. Lady Jane believes the distance between savagery and civilisation is the learned capacity to control wanting. The experiment fails, the Franklins throw the child onto the streets and into a life of prostitution and alcoholism. A few years later Mathinna is found dead in a puddle. She is nineteen years old. By then Sir John too is dead, lost in the blue ice of the Arctic seeking the North West Passage. A decade later evidence emerges that in its final agony, Franklin's expedition resorted to the level and practice of savages: cannibalism. Lady Jane enlists Dickens's aid to put an end to such scandalous suggestions.
Dickens becomes ever more entranced in the story of men entombed in ice, recognising in its terrible image his own frozen inner life. He produces and stars in a play inspired by Franklin's fate to give story to his central belief: that discipline and will can conquer desire. And yet the play will bring him to the point where he is finally no longer able to control his own wanting and the consequences it brings.
Based on historic events, Wanting is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting.' (Provided by publisher.)
'This paper compares fictional portraits of Lady Jane Franklin in Richard Flanagan’s Wanting (2008), Sten Nadolny’s The Discovery of Slowness (1997), Adrienne Eberhard’s verse novel Jane, Lady Franklin (2004) and Jennifer Livett’s novel fragment, ‘Prologue: A Fool on the Island’.
'These fictions variously reconstruct Franklin’s vilified roles as modern female traveller and social reformer in Tasmanian colonial society. They also evoke her public lamentations over the loss of her explorer husband on the doomed North-West Passage expedition. While some of these novels privilege white male viewpoints, others foreground Franklin in her guises of political agitator, traveller, and hubristic public mourner. Some of these works also depict intercultural relationships between Franklin and Indigenous Palawa children as central to their elegiac evocations of settler mourning.
'I argue that these novels differently show how Franklin’s decades-long grief ‘performance’, traversing two hemispheres, served a personal memorial function while guaranteeing her tentative access to, and ‘safe passage’ through, the male-dominated imperial political, social and cultural discourses of her day. I argue finally that, with the exception of Livett and Nadolny, these dramatic ‘retrievals’ of the figure of Jane Franklin in relation to Indigenous subjects, serve a limited critique of the parochial, racist colonial culture of early ‘Hobarton’. A complex Jane Franklin character is often elided within these novelised landscapes of dispossession, with Franklin sometimes (mis)cast as wicked queen in the construction of racial extinction narratives. ' (Author's abstract)
'This article examines two works of fiction that speculatively rewrite settler histories in South Africa and Australia, J.M. Coetzee’s Dusklands and Richard Flanagan’s Wanting. In the interest of critically addressing the silences, elisions, and ideological simplifications of imperialist histories of the colonial encounter, both texts imaginatively attend to the lived experiences of European settlers and indigenous peoples during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In their respective accounts of the colonial encounter, Coetzee and Flanagan represent how racist, anthropocentric, and ecophobic mentalities are unsettled by affective intensities that instantiate the body’s resistance to the political, economic, social, and religious logics of colonialism. Both authors coordinate the body’s resistance with animality, which in its turn is posited as a kind of affective power that has the potential to ethically and aesthetically reconfigure the human-animal binary of western discourse. Inasmuch as they rewrite history, imaginatively recuperate the value of indigenous sensibilities, and positively reinscribe human animality, this essay proposes that Coetzee and Flanagan attempt to resituate the human ecologically.' (Publication summary)