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"If I speak false" : reading the oppositional in Peter Carey's True history of the Kelly Gang


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Mead, E 2008 , '"If I speak false" : reading the oppositional in Peter Carey's True history of the Kelly Gang', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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My thesis offers a detailed textual analysis of Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel True History of the Kelly Gang. Adopting a postcolonial approach, the thesis uses Carey's representation of an iconic Australian hero as a conduit to questions of racial identity in the so-called reconciling nation. Its arguments stem from two major theoretical underpinnings: Alan Lawson's Second World theory, which designates settler nations such as Australia as "suspended between 'mother' and 'other', simultaneously colonized and colonizing," and Ross Chambers' theory of narrative oppositionality in his book Room For Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative. The thesis argues that Carey's text works hard to affect a change to the white Australian reader's economy of desire, and to open up a space for an alternative mode of national belonging — one that replaces the "sorry" nation's discourse of atonement with what Ken Gelder and Jane M. Jacobs call a "mutual (dis)possession" of its cultural and geographical spaces.
The thesis is organised according to what I see as the text's most compelling and potentially subversive oppositional strategies. Chapter One establishes a reading practice that resists the tendency among many Carey critics to too casually engage the terms "postcolonial" and "postmodern." Chapter Two uses the trope of the motherland to explore the relationship between racial and sexual identity in Australian settler discourse: as a fiercely contested site of gendered and racial legitimacy, the motherland provides a means to imagine a more subversive sexual landscape in which neither mother nor land is virginal. Chapter Three uses True History's intertextual relationship with Shakespeare's Henry Vas a starting point for examining the relationship between theatre and history. It argues that Carey's confusing deployment of theatre as a textual discourse and a narrative practice - and the entanglement of both with questions of historical agency — compels the reader to consider the ideological function of theatre and spectatorship in True History of the Kelly Gang, as well as in other kinds of colonial and postcolonial histories. Chapter Four deploys critical discourses of postcolonial melancholia to analyse the text's engagement with convict memory and settler guilt. In this final chapter, I consider the uneasy cohabitation between psychoanalysis and postcolonialism as a provocative metaphor for the text's oppositional failures and successes.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Mead, E
Keywords: Carey, Peter, 1943-
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2007 the author

Additional Information:

Author now known as Elizabeth Pearce.
Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2008. Includes bibliographical references

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