A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature

A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature

Edited by Belinda Wheeler
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 244
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt31njb6
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature
    Book Description:

    Australian Aboriginal literature, once relegated to the margins of Australian literary studies, now receives both national and international attention. Not only has the number of published texts by contemporary Australian Aboriginals risen sharply, but scholars and publishers have also recently begun recovering earlier published and unpublished Indigenous works. Writing by Australian Aboriginals is making a decisive impression in fiction, autobiography, biography, poetry, film, drama, and music, and has recently been anthologized in Oceana and North America. Until now, however, there has been no comprehensive critical companion that contextualizes the Aboriginal canon for scholars, researchers, students, and general readers. This international collection of eleven original essays fills this gap by discussing crucial aspects of Australian Aboriginal literature and tracing the development of Aboriginal literacy from the oral tradition up until today, contextualizing the work of Aboriginal artists and writers and exploring aspects of Aboriginal life writing such as obstacles toward publishing, questions of editorial control (or the lack thereof), intergenerational and interracial collaborations combining oral history and life writing, and the pros and cons of translation into European languages. Contributors: Katrin Althans, Maryrose Casey, Danica Cerce, Stuart Cooke, Paula Anca Farca, Michael R. Griffiths, Oliver Haag, Martina Horakova, Jennifer Jones, Nicholas Jose, Andrew King, Jeanine Leane, Theodore F. Sheckels, Belinda Wheeler. Belinda Wheeler is Assistant Professor of English at Paine College, Augusta, Georgia.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-862-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Nicholas Jose

    Aboriginal literature may be a new field in academic study, yet the term designates a set of creative and communicative practices that reach into deep time, “time immemorial” as Aboriginal people sometime call it, while also having a vital and diverse presence in contemporary culture. At the start of the twenty-first century, Indigenous Australian writers are prominent practitioners in the major literary genres of fiction and nonfiction, poetry, drama, and writing for young people. They regularly receive awards and accolades for their work. Alexis Wright won the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel Carpentaria in 2007, and Kim...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Belinda Wheeler
  5. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  6. Introduction: The Emerging Canon
    (pp. 1-14)
    Belinda Wheeler

    Australian Aboriginal literature has come a long way. Achievements by Australian Aboriginal authors, poets, film directors, musicians, and playwrights are being increasingly recognized around the world. However, as recently as the early 1970s Australian Aboriginal artists were a marginalized voice in Australian literary studies and mainstream Australian culture. With the exception of praised works such as those by writers David Unaipon and Sally Morgan, poets Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker) and Lionel Fogarty, musicians Jimmy Little and the members of Yothu Yindi, and playwrights Kevin Gilbert and Jack Davis, there were few “celebrated” Australian Aboriginal artists in the mid- to...

  7. 1: Indigenous Life Writing: Rethinking Poetics and Practice
    (pp. 15-34)
    Michael R. Griffiths

    What does it mean to “write of life”? And how does Aboriginal writing position itself in relation to the politics of life itself? The opening stanza to Jack Davis’s poem about sixteen-year-old John Pat, brutally beaten by police in 1983, troubles the relation between the Aboriginal custom of not speaking the name of the dead and the necessary task of memorializing such trauma. One way to read the stanza is to identify the pious as a double category: the pious may be those whites who insist Davis “forget the past”; yet, paradoxically, the pious may equally refer to those voices...

  8. 2: Australian Aboriginal Life Writers and Their Editors: Cross-Cultural Collaboration, Authorial Intention, and the Impact of Editorial Choices
    (pp. 35-52)
    Jennifer Jones

    When Mary Ann Hughes complained in 1998 that critics were preoccupied with the process of editorial collaboration that shaped Australian Aboriginal texts, she argued that this focus led to the neglect of the literary merit of the work. While the collaboration of mainstream writers with editors primarily went unremarked, “in the case of an Aboriginal writer, the role of the editor in constructing the work is the issue which most readily springs to the fore” (56). Hughes remarked upon the then decade-long critical determination to materialize the traditionally invisible craft of editing. This critical preoccupation ran parallel with the second...

  9. 3: Contemporary Life Writing: Inscribing Double Voice in Intergenerational Collaborative Life-Writing Projects
    (pp. 53-70)
    Martina Horakova

    The genre of Australian Indigenous life writing has, particularly in the 1990s, proliferated into a large critical field that, mirroring the quantity, popularity, and diversity of published life stories, examines various aspects of these narratives.¹ One of these aspects is the nature of collaboration among participants, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in the process of eliciting, recording, writing, editing, and publishing such accounts. A number of scholarly studies have examined the complexities of this process and noted the long and notorious history of editorial intervention in the production of mostly orally transmitted life stories, an intervention that frequently led to some...

  10. 4: European Translations of Australian Aboriginal Texts
    (pp. 71-88)
    Danica Čerče and Oliver Haag

    Since the late 1970s, books authored or coauthored by Australian Aboriginals have been translated into well over seventeen different languages, with continental Europe being the most prolific and largest market for this literature in translation (Haag, “Indigenous Australian,” 2). Translations of Aboriginal literature into European languages are a comparatively recent phenomenon—the first translated book authored by an Aboriginal to be sold in Europe was the Polish edition of Kath Walker’s Stradbroke Dreamtime in 1977. As statistical evaluations of bibliographies have shown, translation of Aboriginal literature has increased since the 1988 Australian bicentennial, with roughly ninety translations published so far....

  11. 5: Tracing a Trajectory from Songpoetry to Contemporary Aboriginal Poetry
    (pp. 89-106)
    Stuart Cooke

    Aboriginal poetry enjoyed a tremendously rapid evolution during the latter half of the twentieth century. In 1964, Oodgeroo Noonuccal published We Are Going, the first book of poetry by an Aboriginal author. Since the 1970s, poetry has been at the forefront of Aboriginal political expression. Poets like Noonuccal, Kevin Gilbert, and Lionel Fogarty have used the medium to forge new possibilities for the expression of contemporary Aboriginal thought. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, established poets like Fogarty and emerging talents like Samuel Wagan Watson and Ali Cobby Eckermann are some of the most widely read and exciting poets...

  12. 6: Rites/Rights/Writes of Passage: Identity Construction in Australian Aboriginal Young Adult Fiction
    (pp. 107-124)
    Jeanine Leane

    A rite of passage is an experience that triggers a significant transformation. During the journey an individual crosses a border or boundary and is transformed in a way that empowers him or her to live in the world differently than before. A genre in Aboriginal writing that often traces a main character’s journey from adolescence to adulthood is young adult fiction. Three prolific Aboriginal young adult fiction writers are John Muk Muk Burke, Melissa Lucashenko, and Tara June Winch. This chapter will look at the bildungsroman in Aboriginal writing through the works of these three authors with particular attention to...

  13. 7: Humor in Contemporary Aboriginal Adult Fiction
    (pp. 125-138)
    Paula Anca Farca

    Depictions of race and gender stereotypes abound in various areas of Australian Aboriginal literature. This literature usually addresses the writers’ responses to the injustice done to Aboriginal people by whites and the blatant racism that creeps into Australian society even today. Given the seriousness of these depictions, Aboriginal writers have seldom employed humor, making it a rather unexplored field in Aboriginal literature and criticism. Recently, though, an increasing number of Aboriginal authors have addressed issues of social injustice and racism by creating humorous situations that help readers recognize white Australians’ immoral behavior. Memoirs by Kenny Laughton (Not Quite Men, No...

  14. 8: White Shadows: The Gothic Tradition in Australian Aboriginal Literature
    (pp. 139-154)
    Katrin Althans

    The discussion of a Gothic tradition in Australian Aboriginal literature is highly controversial. First, there is the debate over the European origin and colonial legacies of the Gothic; second, there is the exploitation of Aboriginal culture in (Western) Gothic fiction; third, there is the argument that Aboriginal cultural beliefs should not be mistaken for the Gothic. Concerning the European origin of and the abuse of Aboriginal customs in Gothic fiction, one can say that Aboriginal authors engage critically with the Gothic and enter into a state of creative resistance. Combined with elements of Aboriginal tradition and culture, the European Gothic...

  15. 9: Bold, Black, and Brilliant: Aboriginal Australian Drama
    (pp. 155-172)
    Maryrose Casey

    Performance, as an embodied encounter, between people of different cultures occupies a crucial position within the processes of recognition and misrecognition of the other. In the context of colonized peoples, dramas written for performance in effect act as a map for representations and communication. In Australia, performance has been a pivotal point of encounter between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Historical Aboriginal cultures are probably the most performance based in the world. Explicitly choreographed performances marked every aspect of social, political, and spiritual life, ranging from judicial, religious, diplomatic, and pedagogical practices to hundreds of genres of performances for entertainment. These...

  16. 10: The Stolen Generations in Feature Film: The Approach of Aboriginal Director Rachel Perkins and Others
    (pp. 173-186)
    Theodore F. Sheckels

    For most of the many years of Australian cinema, Aboriginality, as McFarlane, Mayer, and Bertrand (the editors of The Oxford Companion to Australian Film [1999]) note, was a rare subject. Then it emerged in a handful of films, either in negative stereotypical terms, as in Charles Chauvel’s Jedda (1953), or in positive, mythic terms, as in Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) or Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977). Either way, Aboriginality was filtered through a white consciousness that arguably distorted it. Then, beginning in roughly 1980, there were many films that reflected a white social consciousness insofar as they dealt with...

  17. 11: A History of Popular Indigenous Music
    (pp. 187-202)
    Andrew King

    Since the invention of recording technologies like the phonograph in the late 1800s, Indigenous music has been performed and recorded across Australia for a wide range of audiences. In the early twentieth century, for instance, music was recorded by anthropologists keen to capture the sounds of a culture that was believed to be in rapid decline (Thomas). Individual performers were not considered important in these recordings; their music was produced for scientific posterity rather than popular pleasure. And even though Aboriginal participation in local music festivals, touring vaudeville shows, and community gatherings was well documented throughout the twentieth century, it...

  18. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 203-206)
  19. Index
    (pp. 207-216)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)