Reference : National Mythology and Colonial Trauma in Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country
Dissertations and theses : Master's dissertation
Arts & humanities : Literature
National Mythology and Colonial Trauma in Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country
Joubail, Houda mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département des langues et littératures modernes > Littérature anglaise moderne et littérature américaine >]
Université de Liège, ​​Belgium
Master en langues et littératures modernes
Delrez, Marc mailto
Pagnoulle, Christine mailto
Tunca, Daria mailto
[en] Australian literature ; National mythology ; Trauma theory
[en] In 1991 the Australian government instigated a process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. This process aimed at laying the foundations of a postcolonial nation through the establishment of the truth about the past, the acknowledgment of the injustices inflicted on the natives, and the development of appropriate forms of justice. Hidden facts about dispossession and genocide were divulged thanks to various inquiries carried out throughout the country. Such hideous facts plunged settler Australians into angst and guilt and prompted many contemporary white novelists to tackle the hitherto taboo issue of colonialism and its legacies in their works. At first glance, this literary endeavour to deal with the darkest chapter in the Australian history appears as a genuine determination to confront the trauma of the colonial past. Nevertheless, a closer look at some contemporary Australian novels reveals an altogether different intention. My dissertation seeks to explore the fictional representations of colonialism and Aboriginal suffering in one of these novels, namely, Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country (2002), in order to emphasise how, through the use of subtle representational and discursive strategies, the author contrives to lessen the impact of the colonial violence.
Annabelle Beck, a descendant of British settlers, and Bo Rennie, a former Aboriginal ringer, set out on a journey from Burranbah in Central Queensland to the sacred ground of the Jangga people. As the journey unfolds, a disturbing past of injustice and loss emerges. The two main protagonists are brought to discover their common history as members of neighbouring families. The exploration of their past culminates in the revelation of a massacre in which Bo’s ancestors were savagely killed by Annabelle’s grandfather and his friends. Admittedly, the author tackles the controversial issues of inter-racial relationships, dispossession, and the legacies of colonial violence, yet his approach is far from being postcolonial. The first part of the dissertation will, indeed, attempt to examine how he makes use of the representational strategies to portray the Aboriginal characters as uneducated, untrustworthy, and racist. Furthermore, this part will emphasise that Miller tends to dismantle colonial myths only to construct neo-colonial ones, particularly, the equal importance of European and Aboriginal heritages. This assumption of egalitarianism is, in fact, not as fair as it seems at first sight given the long history of injustices to which Aborigines were subjected.
The second part of the dissertation is dedicated to the analysis of the author’s response to the colonial trauma. A close reading of the novel in the lights of trauma theories reveals that the author resists the full understanding and acknowledgement of the truth about the past. He, indeed, undermines his avowed intention of exposing the atrocities inflicted on Aboriginal people through a series of discursive strategies. The dissertation will mainly draw on Dominick LaCapra’s writings about trauma to suggest that Miller is caught within the process of what LaCapra refers to as “acting out”, that is to say the tendency to repress the traumatic past to avoid any critical confrontation. Therefore, though he apparently engages in the venture of exploring the colonial past, Miller advocates the law of silence, a law which is hardly compatible with the requirements of a true reconciliation.
CEREP (Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherche en Etudes Postcoloniales)
Researchers ; Students

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