First a Play, Now a Book, Soon a Film: Reimagining Henry Lawson’s Short Story ‘The Drover’s Wife’

Gildersleeve, Jessica ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7694-5615 and Cantrell, Kate ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5689-614X and Prowse, Nycole (2020) First a Play, Now a Book, Soon a Film: Reimagining Henry Lawson’s Short Story ‘The Drover’s Wife’. In: The Short Story and Its Readers: Words and the World Symposium, 2 Dec 2020, Geelong, Australia.

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Abstract

In a recent interview, George Singleton uses a spatial analogy to describe the process of writing long- and short-form fiction: ‘writing a novel is a walk across a bridge, while a short story is a walk across a tightrope’. Singleton’s analogy captures the experiential differences of writing long and short prose, and alludes to the characteristics that distinguish the short story as an enduring form: narrative economy, unity of effect or impression, and the compression of both the story’s temporal setting and characters (Chan; Glazener).

The process of adaptation, however, is a more complex project of reconfiguration: one that is not only governed by ethical issues and aesthetic tensions but by the social, cultural, and political issues that arise in the calibration of old stories for new times, new audiences, and new medias. Since the past itself can either be contested or conserved, rewritten or restated, the act of retelling always calls into question the relationship between the story and history itself. As Linda Hutcheon confirms, ‘Retelling a story in a new medium, and at a later time for a new audience, can lead to a new comprehension of both past and present’ (viii).

This paper investigates the ethics and politics of contemporary adaptations of Henry Lawson’s frontier narrative, ‘The Drover’s Wife’ (1892). Leah Purcell’s contemporary reimaginings, for example, transverse stage (2016), page (2019), and screen (forthcoming), and repurpose colonial tropes and stereotypes to rework what Lawson perceived as Australia’s ‘Outback hell’ (Lawson qtd. in Barnes 11). Moreover, by remediating Lawson’s iconic tale, and by infusing the story with her own personal history, Purcell moves beyond simply reimagining the story to foregrounding the corrective dimension of retelling. In other words, in recasting Lawson’s story, Purcell not only shifts the story to a different medium but illuminates and interrogates the past in order to destabilise one of Australia’s foundational narratives.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2020 03:46
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2021 01:04
Uncontrolled Keywords: Australian literature; the short story; The Drover's Wife; Henry Lawson; Leah Purcell; adaptation
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200212 Screen and Media Culture
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470502 Australian literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature)
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4702 Cultural studies > 470214 Screen and media culture
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280116 Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/40298

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