Date of Award

6-2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Gwen Tarbox

Second Advisor

Dr. Allen Webb

Third Advisor

Dr. Todd Kuchta

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Birns

Abstract

Australia's most important national narratives take place in the bush, the outback, and overseas. The dominant representations of Australia, both within the nation and abroad, focus on the outback, the bush and the cities. However, Australia is one of the most suburban societies in the world, and has been since the mid-nineteenth-century. Nevertheless, Australian novels are rarely set in suburbia. Between the City and the Bush examines representations of suburbia in contemporary Australian novels. Focusing on the relationship between colonialism, the physical development of suburbia and the anti-suburban intellectual tradition, my chapters address a number of issues, including immigration, environmental degradation, Indigenous rights, non-indigenous belonging, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, sexuality, religion and spirituality, and the role of the artist in society. This dissertation outlines the history of the anti-suburban intellectual tradition within Australia, the connections between the British, American and Australian anti-suburban intellectual traditions, and the effect of the anti-suburban tradition on Australian literature and Australian literary criticism, before proceeding to analyze eleven novels. This project examines novels published between 1961 and 2005, demonstrating the establishment, development and perpetuation of the anti-suburban tradition in the Australian novel. The second and third chapters argue against the dominant critical perception of Patrick White's canonical novels Riders in the Chariot(1961) and The Solid Mandala (1966) as anti-suburban, contending that White's novels present suburbia ambivalently, including both celebratory and disparaging representations. I demonstrate that the anti-suburban tradition in the Australian novel was established by George Johnston with his classic novel My Brother Jack (1964), and show that the anti-suburban tradition was perpetuated throughout the following four decades by David Malouf, Tim Winton, Melissa Lucashenko and A.L. McCann. In the final two chapters, I argue that Gerald Murnane and Peter Carey reject the anti-suburban tradition and utilize suburbia as a setting for fictional experimentation and intensive engagement with social issues, demonstrating that suburbia, the site in which most Australians live, contains a wealth of subjects for novelists.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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