Black Words White Page

Black Words White Page: New Edition

Adam Shoemaker
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Black Words White Page
    Book Description:

    Fifteen years after its first publication, Black Words White Page remains as fresh as ever. This award-winning study - the first comprehensive treatment of the nature and significance of Indigenous Australian literature - was based upon the author's doctoral research at The Australian National University and was first published by UQP in 1989. Adam Shoemaker combines historical and literary analysis as he explores the diversity and difference of writings that have gained increasing strength and visibility since that time. Shoemaker's special focus is those dynamic years between 1963 and 1988, when advances in Indigenous affairs were paralleled by a rapid growth of all types of Black Australian literature. He examines the achievements of leading figures in the Aboriginal movement such as Jack Davis, Kevin Gilbert, Charles Perkins and Oodgeroo. He also provides intriguing insights into the socio-political contexts of the time while tracing the history of black-white relations in Australia. Black Words White Page also offers some provocative re-evaluations of white Australian writers Xavier Herbert, Ion Idriess, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Patrick White and Judith Wright. Winner of the 1990 Walter McRae Russell Award of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature Adam Shoemaker is Professor and Dean of Arts at The Australian National University in Canberra. He came to Australia from Canada in the 1980s and has had a succession of public, international and academic positions since that time, including three years spent with the Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities. He has written or edited seven books dealing in whole or part with Indigenous literatures and race relations, including Paperbark (1990), Mudrooroo: A Critical Study (1993) and A Sea Change: Australian Writing and Photography (1998); and (together with Stephen Muecke) David Unaipon's Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines (2001) and - most recently - the French-language work Les Aborigènes d'Australie (Gallimard, 2002).

    eISBN: 978-0-9751229-6-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the 2004 Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Adam Shoemaker
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Australia’s Fourth World Literature
    (pp. 1-16)

    As the 1980s progress, modern nation states are increasingly being forced to come to terms with their indigenous minorities. The Laplanders of Finland, the Indians of Peru, and the Inuit of Canada are no longer articulating their aims and grievances solely through appeals to their respective national governments. In a process hastened by the constant improvements in electronic and satellite communications, there is a trend towards indigenous collectivity on a global scale. A clear example of this was the creation in 1975 of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), officially sanctioned by the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation....

  6. 1 From Depression to War
    (pp. 17-38)

    In 1929, the impact of the American stock market crash was felt all around the world. By 1930, in Australia, as in most other countries, the economy was in the grip of the Depression. Not until the outbreak of World War II did Australia’s economy truly recover; as the military battles were fought, the economic battle was won.

    But there was much more to the Depression than its impact upon Australia’s national economic performance. In retrospect, it is far too easy to gloss over the personal suffering of the period, the thwarted aspirations, the dislocation of families. It is even...

  7. 2 Popular Perceptions of an Unpopular People, 1929-1945
    (pp. 39-62)

    When the results of the Bulletin’s literary competition were announced in August 1928, Katharine Susannah Prichard was awarded joint first prize for her novel, Coonardoo. The judges said, ‘Our first choice is A House is Built, an Australian prose epic of marked literary quality. We find, however, such great merit in Coonardoo, with its outstanding value for serial publication, that we recommend it also as worthy of a first prize’.¹ This official praise gave the impression that the judging party was unanimous in its approval of Prichard’s work, but this was not the case. One of the judges, Cecil Mann...

  8. 3 World War II and the Assimilation Era: A Self-Destructive Doctrine
    (pp. 63-78)

    The end of World War II marked a time of celebration and relief for most Australians. For Aboriginal Australians in many parts of the nation the celebration was short-lived. While the post-war years ushered in an era of tremendous economic expansion and increased prosperity, the experience of many Aborigines belied the optimistic statistics. In the midst of the upward economic spiral, the Aboriginal people remained at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale, and their poverty only accentuated severe health problems, which particularly afflicted the young. Though it did not provide the impetus for prosperity for most Aborigines, the end...

  9. 4 The Literary Perception, 1945–1961
    (pp. 79-102)

    In the years following 1945, whether they despised Aborigines or felt genuine compassion for them, most Australians continued to believe that Black Australians were basically incapable of looking after themselves. Despite evidence to the contrary provided by incidents such as the Pilbara strike, the attitude that Aborigines were a people who for their own good had to be coerced into ‘correct’ modes of behaviour was manifested in almost all governmental Aboriginal policy until the early 1960s. Even those Aborigines who had accepted the ideal of assimilation were denied the rights held by all Australian citizens – including access to liquor,...

  10. 5 Progress and Frustrated Expectations: The Era Since 1961
    (pp. 103-126)

    Just over twenty-five years ago – in 1961 – the New South Wales Minister for Health, W.F. Sheehan, announced that his government planned to outlaw the segregation of whites and Aborigines in the state’s hospitals. In many areas of the state, European reaction to this news was hostile and indignant. For example, the chairman of the Moree District Hospital Board stated that he and his colleagues would ignore any such directive and that ‘any attempt to alter the current situation would lead to trouble’.¹ As Rowley has revealed, local segregation of whites and blacks was common throughout New South Wales...

  11. 6 Views of Australian History in Aboriginal Literature
    (pp. 127-158)

    In some ways, Australians are now more preoccupied with their own past than they have been at any other stage in their history. As the recent spate of feature films dealing with Australian heroes and legends attests,¹ the history of such domestic and international endeavours caters to a wide popular audience. During 1988, the bicentennial of the British invasion, the emphasis upon Australian achievements of the past has naturally increased and there is a considerable amount of glorification of many of those events. It is ironic that this trend towards the honouring of the country’s history occurs at a time...

  12. 7 Sex and Violence in the Black Australian Novel
    (pp. 159-178)

    There is, I believe, a fundamental ambivalence towards sexuality in modern Western culture, an ambivalence which is exemplified by the often brutally invasive nature of its language describing love-making. As numerous commentators have observed, sexual relations – theoretically in the realm of love – have often been perverted into forms of violence.¹ In contemporary Australian society, this destructive ambivalence persists both linguistically and actively, as belligerent and violent slang terms for intercourse, and rising rape and incest statistics both attest. Put crudely, in White Australian culture, to achieve victory in the so-called ‘battle’ between the sexes males far too often...

  13. 8 The Poetry of Politics: Australian Aboriginal Verse
    (pp. 179-230)

    Black Australian authors are not unified in their aims and approaches to writing. The diversity of Aboriginal literary perspectives is perhaps best illustrated by Black Australian poetry in English. Whether it is published in popular Australian periodicals such as the Bulletin or in local and regional Aboriginal community publications like the North Queensland Message Stick or the Kimberley Land Council Newsletter, poetry has attracted more Black Australian authors than any other mode of creative writing. Whether its orientation is towards Aboriginal health, education, legal matters, or government policy, almost every Aboriginal newspaper or magazine contains poetry on a regular basis....

  14. 9 Aboriginality and Black Australian Drama
    (pp. 231-264)

    In 1971, a new quarterly magazine began in Australia. Identity was destined to become the single most important and influential Aboriginal periodical in the country. The magazine’s name was very appropriate for, especially during the six-and-a-half years that Jack Davis was its editor, the magazine explored the evolving Aboriginal view of what it meant to be a ‘First Australian’ living in the 1970s and 1980s. This theme of Aboriginality is probably the most important of all those dealt with in contemporary Black Australian writing. It underlies the Aboriginal preoccupation with history, and is closely related to issues of black politics,...

  15. 10 Conclusion: Black Words on White Pages
    (pp. 265-282)

    The gap between multinational mining companies and Black Australian poetry may appear vast, but both activities are very important to Aboriginal Australians today. The first brings them directly into contact with European technology, politics and mores in remote areas of Australia’s north. The second brings them into contact with writing achievements which engender Black Australian pride and confidence. The two activities are related in the further sense that Aboriginal writers frequently tackle socio-political issues – such as mining – in their work. A fine example of this is Gerry Bostock’s sardonic poem, ‘An Australian Miner’:

    A young Australian Miner


  16. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 283-284)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-308)
  18. Index
    (pp. 309-312)