University of Tasmania
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Littoral fictions: Writing Tasmania and newfoundland

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posted on 2023-05-26, 00:35 authored by Polack, FM
This thesis examines contemporary literary fiction which takes either the Canadian island of Newfoundland or the Australian island of Tasmania as its imaginative terrain. Utilising a comparative framework, it juxtaposes narratives which have helped construct these regional spaces during the last twenty-five years of the twentieth century. Informed by post-modern spatial theory, 'Littoral Fictions' is premised on the argument that places are produced, rather than simply reflected, in literary and other modes of cultural expression. Particularly important to the thesis are Michel de Certeau's assertion that 'every story is a travel story - a spatial practice' (The Practice of Everyday Life 115), and Fredric Jameson's contention that cultural and economic production are inextricably intertwined. Consequently, the thesis seeks to determine how and why Tasmania and Newfoundland figure within recent fiction, and to consider the ramifications of their constructions. 'Littoral Fictions' examines writing about leaving, walking around, and coming home to regional spaces. In the process, it addresses the work of Christopher Koch, Dennis Altman, Paul Bowdring, Wayne Johnston, Patrick Kavanagh, Robert Drewe, Mudrooroo, Bernice Morgan, Richard Flanagan and E. Annie Proulx, in particular detail. The thesis finds that Newfoundland and Tasmania play comparable, instigative roles within narratives hinging on the alternate spatial trajectories it identifies. Only rarely do these islands serve as sketchy or neutral backgrounds. Instead, their landscapes and histories are presented in detail, and important shifts in narrative action are associated with movements to, from, or within their boundaries. Paradoxically, the more insistently the islands are evoked as geographically, culturally and/or economically marginal, the more significant their role in the narrative - even to the point of their serving as representative spaces within national imaginaries. Literary constructions of Tasmania and Newfoundland diverge and converge in more specific ways, too. Stories about leaving the two islands are quite different, for instance, whilst the resemblance between narratives of homecoming is remarkable . . 'Littoral Fictions' does identify signs of a shift in the ways Tasmania and Newfoundland are spatialised in some recent writing. The thesis concludes by speculating that moves to figure the islands as more fully integrated with the world beyond their shores portend an important re-conceptualisation. In identifying parallels in typical figurations of Tasmania and Newfoundland, 'Littoral Fictions' seeks to participate in the project of constructing new connections between the respective islands and places elsewhere.


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