Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 12 (English Unit 3)
Australian identity, belonging, community, faith, family, fate, fear, love, nostalgia, spirituality
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
Selected in May 2003 by members of The Australian Society of Authors as their favourite Australian book.
Selected in December 2004 by the Australian public in an ABC poll as Australia's fifth favourite book.
'In their introduction to the book Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence, Colleen E. Boyd and Coll Thrush recall the recurring nature of the ‘Indian burial ground’ (vii) cliché in popular culture. As Boyd and Thrush see it, the Aboriginal burial ground as the rationale for a piece of land being uncanny or haunted has become ‘a tried-and-true element of the cultural industry’ (vii). Boyd and Thrush argue that possessed, sacred Aboriginal territory or the ‘Indian uncanny’ (ix) remains one of the most common explanations for the supernatural attributes of a house or other physical site in texts produced in ‘settler colonies’ (Ashcroft 133) such as Australia, Canada, and the United States, ‘[w]hether . . . the haunted house down the dirt lane, the spectral woods behind the subdivision or the seemingly cursed stretch of highway up the canyon’ (Boyd vii).' (Introduction)
'Doris Bachmann-Medick maintains that the period since the 1970s has seen a series of “cultural turns”, that is, theoretical and cultural reorientations, which have “shifted perspectives, introduced new focuses and, as a result, opened previously unexamined cross-disciplinary fields of inquiry” (1). One such turn is the constitution of the postcolonial theory of culture, which has “shed light on the power of hegemonic cultures to shape discourse while illuminating the increasingly autonomous self-representation of previously marginalized societies, ethnic groups and literatures” (Bachmann-Medick 132).' (Introduction)
'The psychology of guilt as debt is a recurrent theme in Tim Winton’s fiction. A number of scholars have recently examined the theme of haunting in Winton’s Cloudstreet (1991), arguing that the ghosts which appear in the story represent an engagement with Australia’s colonial past, in particular the mistreatment of its Indigenous peoples. The latest of these, Michael R. Griffiths, highlights the shortcomings of Winton’s treatment of this theme, contending that Winton’s text might be read as a kind of excuse, in the name of naïveté, for colonial abuses. Given that Nicholas Birns (among others) has noted a new maturity in Winton’s work from The Turning (2004) onward, a fresh examination of such themes in Winton’s work is warranted. This essay does so through a reading of the short story ‘Aquifer’. Examining the story’s treatment of the psychology of guilt and debt, the essay explores how Winton tries to resolve the moral and historical problems he raises in regard to Australian culture through the ethical figure of the neighbour, drawn in particular from the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. By showing the centrality of the neighbour to Winton’s work through references to In the Winter Dark (1988), Cloudstreet, Breath (2009), ‘Aquifer,’ and a newspaper editorial by Winton on the humanitarian treatment of refugees, this paper seeks to provide a new critical window through which to understand his evolving ethical ideas about Australia’s past and future.'
'Tim Winton’s fiction has divided critics. His writing has been characterised as nostalgic (Dixon), as too Christian (Goldsworthy), as blokey, and even misogynist (Schürholz). He has been pilloried on the blog site Worst of Perth, with its ‘Wintoning Project,’ which calls for contributions of ‘Australian or Western Australian schmaltz, in the style of our most famous literary son, master dispenser of literary cheese and fake WA nostalgia Tim Winton’ (online). And he has won the top Australian literary prize, The Miles Franklin Award, four times (Shallows, 1984; Cloudstreet, 1992; Dirt Music, 2002; and Breath, 2009). Winton’s oeuvre spans three decades. It remains highly recognisable in its use of Australian vernacular and its sun-filled, beachy Western Australian settings; but it has also taken some dramatic, dark and probingly self-questioning turns. While critics often look for common strands in an author’s oeuvre, it is revealing to consider developments and changes between individual works. How do the darker, more abject elements of Winton’s imaginative visions relate to the ‘wholesome’ if macho Aussie surfer image, or to the writer of plenitude somehow embarrassing to critics?' (Author's introduction)
'The consolidation of the myths produced by Gallipoli suffused much of Australian public culture in the decades following the end of the First World War, producing models of masculinity, community and nationhood that became inscribed as cultural norms. It is these very norms that Winton's notion of the potential "new tribalism" of Australian community seeks to disrupt, especially by way of Cloudstreet's representation of family.' (Source: Article.)