Trauma, memory and landscape in Queensland: women writing 'A New Alphabet of Moss and Water'

Gildersleeve, Jessica (2012) Trauma, memory and landscape in Queensland: women writing 'A New Alphabet of Moss and Water'. Queensland Review, 19 (2). pp. 205-216. ISSN 1321-8166

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The cultural association of Queensland with a condition of imagination or unreality has a strong history. Queensland has always 'retained much of its quality as an abstraction, an idea', asserts Thea Astley in her famous essay on the state's identity (Astley 1976: 263). In one of the most quoted descriptions of Queensland's literary representation, Pat Buckridge draws attention to its 'othering', suggesting that Queensland possesses 'a different sense of distance, different architecture, a different apprehension of time, a distinctive preoccupation with personal eccentricity, and . . . a strong sense of cultural antitheses' (1976: 30). Rosie Scott comes closest to the concerns of this present article when she asserts that this so-called difference 'is definitely partly to do with the landscape. In Brisbane, for instance, the rickety old wooden Queenslanders drenched in bougainvillea, the palms, the astounding number of birds even in Red Hill where I lived, the jacarandas, are all unique in Australia' (quoted in Sheahan-Bright and Glover 2002: xv). For Vivienne Muller, Buckridge's 'cultural antitheses' are most clearly expressed in precisely this interpretation of Queensland as a place somewhere between imagined wilderness and paradise (2001: 72). Thus, as Gillian Whitlock suggests, such differences are primarily fictional constructs that feed 'an image making process founded more on nationalist debates about city and bush, centre and periphery, the Southern states versus the Deep North than on any 'real' sense of regionalism' (quoted in Muller 2001: 80). Queensland, in this reading, is subject to the Orientalist discourse of an Australian national identity in which the so-called civilisation of the south-eastern urban capitals necessitates a dark 'other'. I want to draw out this understanding of the landscape as it is imagined in Queensland women's writing. Gail Reekie (1994: 8) suggests that, 'Women's sense of place, of region, is powerfully constructed by their marginality to History.' These narratives do assert Queensland's 'difference', but as part of an articulation of psychological extremity experienced by those living on the edges of a simultaneously ideological and geographically limited space. The Queensland landscape, I argue, is thus used as both setting for and symbol of traumatic experience.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright of Queensland Review is the property of Cambridge University Press and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. Published version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - School of Humanities and Communication
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2013 00:20
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2017 01:09
Uncontrolled Keywords: Queensland; deep north; isolation; culture; women authors
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200526 Stylistics and Textual Analysis
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950199 Arts and Leisure not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1017/qre.2012.23

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