PANEL 13: READING LITERARY TEXT AGAINST THE GRAIN

Lecture Theatre 4, 15:00- 16:30
Chair: Gayani Ranawake

 

Adrift at Home: Trauma, Modernity, and the Anglo-Irish History in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September
Qiong He, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

The big house in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September (1929) is often interpreted as a gothic space signifying colonial violence and marking the decay of the Anglo-Irish Ascendency (Corcoran 2004, 39-60; Ellmann 2003, 40-68; Lassner & Derdiger 2009, 195-200). Nevertheless, Bowen’s big house is much more complicated than the above general reading. For while providing a shelter in the present, allowing the occupants to repress knowledge or experience of the Anglo-Irish war, it also bears traces of the past, since it is haunted by the traumatic memory of a woman’s failed rebellion against the confinement of the domestic space. Reading the big house in relation to trauma, this paper explores how the shelter offered by domestic space to the traumatized characters in the present is undermined both by the present forces of modernity and the return of traumatic memories of the past. The previously safe and stable space signified by the big house becomes unsettled and disoriented, unveiling the social and historical contexts behind trauma, that is, the disorientation of national identity as the result of the war, and the force of modernity, as modern ideas about women unset traditional models of domesticity. To secure her national and female identity, the female protagonist has to cope with the traumatic memory and the past traditions embodied in the family home while establishing a new basis to fulfil her needs to be a modern subject adrift outside the roles proscribed by the traditional domestic space.

Qiong He is a PhD candidate majoring in literature and arts at Australian National University. She received her Masters degree at Sichuan University, China in 2017. Her current research focuses on place and trauma in Elizabeth Bowen’s writing, demonstrating how Bowen utilizes place as a dimension to register trauma and to make trauma visible and representable, and how Bowen provides a lifelong exploration of a sense of place. Qiong’s research interest includes modernist literature, especially Elizabeth Bowen, and geographies of modernism; literary theory, especially trauma theory, place/space theory.

 


 

Broken Bodies, Remade Wholes: Unwind as Frankenstein Retold and Reversed
Alison Wolfe, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

New technologies create new opportunities for anxiety and using human body parts to create life is a special kind of horrifying fictional procedure. At first glance, Unwind by Neal Shusterman and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein approach this concept in inverted ways. In Frankenstein, a “monster” is built out of the parts of corpses, and rises against his horrified creator, while Unwind centres on a society that justifies breaking down its own children for their organs, and using these parts to sustain itself until the children rise against it. Unwind is centred on the precept that that which is broken down still lives, in a divided state, controllable by the larger body to which it’s donated. The children broken down for parts are perceived and understood by the authorities of this fictional universe as criminals waiting to happen, excess bodies and liabilities. Frankenstein’s monster horrified Dr Frankenstein due to his perceived imperfection and lack of accuracy to his father’s vision of the perfect creation. Unwind is inspired to take its children apart due to that same disgust. Fear of what one has created and its difference from oneself pervades the horrors and potential horrors of both works. In my paper I argue that Unwind mirrors Frankenstein in how it centres on an adult fear of the children it has created, placed specifically in a time and place where they have the technology and the lack of empathy to tell themselves that it is better not to ‘waste’ what they have made. Unwind and Frankenstein both delve into old fears and new technology, embodying and perpetuating a cycle of technology prompting anxiety prompting technology, until all fear what they have wrought.

Alison Wolfe is a PhD student in English Literature at ANU. Her work focuses on Young Adult fiction, dystopia, and technologies.

 


 

On Reading the Fourth World: Languaging in Indigenous Australian and Indian Poetry
Priyanka Shivadas, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales, Canberra

Native American scholar Chadwick Allen in his Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies (2012) examines a series of poems and a hip-hop song by indigenous poets and artists from New Zealand and North America through a focus on their strategic use of Indigenous language. Allen remarks, “This focus on Indigenous language raises issues of artistic empathy, linguistic and literary translation, and what the Latin Americanist critic Walter Mignolo describes as ‘bilanguaging’—that is, thinking, speaking, and writing among two or more languages and cultural systems, fully cognizant of the politics of their unequal, often asymmetrical relationships within (post)colonial linguistic and social hierarchies” (Trans-Indigenous 146). This kind of interpretative process emerges out of Allen’s trans-Indigenous methodologies, which aim to explore the potential of indigenous-to-indigenous encounters (at the site of the transnational reader) outside of established models for Indigenous literary studies. Drawing on Allen’s work and in line with my doctoral research, which is a trans-Indigenous study of contemporary Indigenous writing from Australia and India produced in or translated into English, in this paper, I intend to present my analysis of selected poems by Indigenous Australian and Indian writers. Bringing the diverse texts into conversation with each other is the notion of ‘Indigenous languaging.’

Priyanka Shivadas is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales Canberra, located at the Australian Defence Force Academy.  Her current research focuses on Global Indigenous Literary Studies. She has published “The Bone People of New Zealand: Identity Politics in the South Pacific” in Homogeneity in Heterogeneity: Memory, Culture, and Resistance in Aboriginal Literatures from Around the World, edited by KBS Krishna and Hem Raj Bansal (Authorspress, 2018) and “The Practice of Public Apology: Australia Says Sorry to the Stolen Generations” in The Culture of Dissenting Memory: Truth Commissions in the Global South, edited by Veronique Tadjo (Routledge, 2019).