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Australian Literature


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


Australian literature is an English-language settler colony literature. Although most scholars date Australian literature to either pre-contact Aboriginal cultures or British colonization in 1788, it only emerged as a coherent field of study in the post-World War II era. In its earliest formulation, Australian literature was understood in primarily nationalist terms, linked to the “new nationalism” of the 1960s, which saw a new interest in local Australian culture. Subsequent Australian literary criticism has contested this early nationalist approach, increasingly critiquing its white male orientation. Feminist literary criticism, coming out of the women's liberation movement, pioneered this redefinition of Australian literature by highlighting the exclusion of women from the canon, but it was the 1988 bicentenary, a national celebration to mark the 200-year anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, which led to the most thoroughgoing reevaluation of Australian literature. Designed to commemorate the “foundation” of Australia, the bicentenary produced a contentious national conversation around the nature of Australian identity and generated a considerable backlash, which highlighted the exclusion of Aboriginals from the celebrations and from definitions of the nation more generally, prompting a new attention to the centrality of Aborigines – both their experiences and their ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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