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Unsettled imaginings: Australian novels of Asian invasion


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Ross, CI 2008 , 'Unsettled imaginings: Australian novels of Asian invasion', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines novels that depict an imaginary invasion of Australia by an
Asian country. It argues that novels of Asian invasion constitute a distinct body of
formulaic literature - a subgenre - within the field of Australian popular fiction. This
study undertakes a formative mapping of the subgenre of Asian invasion novels in
three ways. It assembles the corpus of texts and provides an annotated bibliography.
It delineates the generic form and content of the novels and monitors the resilience
and evolution of the subgenre through changing historical and cultural contexts. It
considers the ideological implications of the Asian invasion narrative through
readings of race, nation and gender.
The first novels of Asian invasion, which established the conventions of the
subgenre, were produced during the period of intense nation building immediately
before and after the federation of Australia in 1901. The explicit ideological project of
these novels was to awaken white Australia to the threat Asia posed to its fledgling
nationhood. This initial anxious literary production activated a detailed set of
discourses centring on Australian vulnerability and Asian menace that endure to the
present day. Generic invasion novels are alarmist, didactic texts that call for a
massive strengthening of national defence by illustrating the ease with which
Australia could be invaded under the present circumstances. In order to fulfil this
pedagogic agenda the texts are often meticulously realist, but are at the same time
complete fantasy, for they document not an actual but an imaginary war. This study
contends that invasion novels bring together science fiction narrative structures,
adventurous plots and realist literary strategies to construct a vehicle for the political
ideology of Asian threat.
The thesis charts the development of the subgenre from its inception in 1888
to the present time and locates thirty novels in all. A survey of the subgenre as a
whole complements the detailed analysis of specific novels. It argues that these
novels are primarily the same dystopian tale of the loss of white Australia told time
and time again. On a subtextual level, Australia's very fixation with the fiction of
Asian invasion generates a cultural significance of its own. This study explores how
the compulsive retelling of the generic prophesy of Asian invasion implicitly
suggests specifically white cultural anxieties stemming from Australia's status as a
relatively new settler society, itself born of invasion.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Ross, CI
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Copyright 2008 the author

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