Sickness country and remembering to forget: writing and healing in the Australian novel

McMahon, T 2016, Sickness country and remembering to forget: writing and healing in the Australian novel, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Sickness country and remembering to forget: writing and healing in the Australian novel
Author(s) McMahon, T
Year 2016
Abstract This PhD uses the practice of fiction writing to examine questions surrounding Australia’s remembering of its colonial past. The two elements of this project – creative artifact and critical dissertation – interrogate Australia’s failing to ‘properly’ recall its treatment of Indigenous people, and the impact of this forgetting on current day racism. The work’s main research statement is that this misremembering is making Australia ill as a nation. I then explore the question of whether the act (novel) and analysis (dissertation) of creative writing can result in a deeper understanding of this perceived sickness and work towards alleviation or at the very least more accurate understanding of same. Australian racism could also concievably be viewed as a case study, therefore positioning my research within wider global themes.

Taking as a starting point the juxtaposition of Indigenous Australian notions of sick land as a place one should not venture, with the non-Indigenous Australian idea of sickness as a place to be interrogated (i.e. visited), I employ both the novel and exegetical form to examine the tension between these two conflicting concepts within an antagonistic framework.

In keeping with the idea of racism as a global illness, my dissertation contains readings of texts by the American author David Foster Wallace, Australian writers Patrick White and Chris Healy, South African writer J. M. Coetzee, as well as reference to American academic Lucia M. Suarez, Critical Race Theory and the French anti-intellectual tradition of Situationism. These elements are examined and expanded on with an eye to their ability to effect meaningful and positive outcomes through the act of non-Indigenous Australian writing. This research is then filtered through the lens of punk and skateboarding as these two utterances pertain to me as and author, as catalysts for change in my own life, and as vehicles for the reinterpretation of space, respectively.

Finally, through an ‘otherwise’ evaluation of certain aspects of Australia’s past – notably the history wars and the Whitlam ‘dismissal’ – and the fictional representation of same, this PhD comes ultimately to the conclusion that writing is intrinsically linked to the possibility of going some way towards curing a sickness that I posit exists much more broadly than is commonly understood.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Writing and Healing
David Foster Wallace
Punk
Situationism
Indigenous and non-indigenous relations
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Created: Mon, 11 Jul 2016, 11:07:11 EST by Denise Paciocco
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