This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Myth of Certainty and the Matrix of Uncertainty: Five Contemporary Australian Novels Confront History




Nesbitt, Charles Scott

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




The intersection of postcolonialism and historiographic metafiction can be seen in novels written over the last several decades by British and Antipodean authors concerning the British colonial era in Australia and its aftermath. Novels from this sub-group of writers of historiographic metafiction fit both Linda Hutcheon’s description of historiographic metafiction and some of the concerns of postcolonial writers and theorists, as they revisit the colonial era and critique or reassess the historiographic writings that helped galvanize pro-colonial perspectives and marginalize and dehumanize the Indigenous communities there. While there is much scholarship on historiographic metafiction and postcolonialism, this volume focuses on the specific nexus of those two concepts and its coalescence in contemporary Australian novels of the colonial and postcolonial experience. The novels covered in this volume—by Peter Carey, Matthew Kneale, Rachel Leary, Richard Flanagan, and Alexis Wright—share an interest in 19th Century Australia, the violence and injustice that were an inescapable part of the foundation of the country during that period, and the potential dubiousness of historical documentation. The self-reflexivity, magical realism, intertextuality, and other elements of historiographic metafiction in these novels force a reckoning with the textualization of history and illustrate the epistemological effects of official documentation and widely accepted or mythologized historical accounts and the way such writings create understandings of events and historical figures that can shape beliefs and ideologies for centuries.