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Reappraising forgotten fictions : the Tasmanian romances of Marie Bjelke Petersen

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Sherwood, TA 2004 , 'Reappraising forgotten fictions : the Tasmanian romances of Marie Bjelke Petersen', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Marie Bjelke Petersen was a prolific writer of popular romance fiction in the early twentieth century. This thesis analyses her five Tasmanian based novels. Although popular with her contemporary reading public, the novels have been critically marginalized in the Australian literary tradition and they now languish largely unread. The work of Susan Sheridan, Fiona Giles and Robert Dixon provides a theoretical context in which Bjelke Petersen's fiction can be re-read and reappraised, for these critics identify an Australian romance tradition that is continuous, prolific and diverse. More importantly, they demonstrate such texts can be recuperated as important cultural artefacts, which articulate and debate in popular form the inherent anxieties, interests and concerns of a culture, at a particular time.
The thesis consists of an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion. The first chapter demonstrates Bjelke Petersen's competence as a writer of popular fiction and argues against claims of aesthetic inadequacy. John Cawelti's work on formula fiction and Rita Felski's formulation of the popular sublime provide the theoretical basis for this chapter.
The second chapter considers the representation of love and romance in Bjelke Petersen's texts. It identifies a re-imagining of the roles of heroines and heroes and a strong commitment to promoting the ideal of companionate love. It argues that such representation is influenced by mainstream feminist campaigns for women's greater agency but also reflects less widely circulated discourses about sexuality.
The third chapter focuses on Bjelke Petersen's preoccupation with Tasmanian wilderness as a form of "literary placemaking." In each of her novels wilderness is constructed as a place of freedom, adventure, healing and love: a haven from modernity. This chapter evaluates and historicizes Bjelke Petersen's representation oflandscape. It concludes that Bjelke Petersen's writing, whilst mindful of generic convention is also informed by local knowledge, and strives to communicate a sense of aesthetic appreciation for nature. The capacity of wilderness to engender physical and spiritual wellbeing - characteristic of romantic ideology - is here compromised by discourses of evangelical religion.
The thesis concludes that Bjelke Petersen's romances, when considered outside the narrow framework of an Australian realist nationalist tradition, are important as popular cultural artefacts. These texts reflect a variety of marginalized early twentieth-century discourses and demonstrate the diversity and complexity of Australian literary culture in this period.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Sherwood, TA
Keywords: Bjelke Petersen, Marie, 1874-1969, Romance fiction, Love stories, Australian
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2004 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 65-70)

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