The essay investigates the representations of madness in the short fiction of two Australian literary icons, considering them on the background of the ambivalent historical and cultural specificities of a (former) settler colony. In this context the issues of “place/displace-ment”, “identity”, “otherness”, “belonging/un-belonging” are further problematized by the destabilizing liminal position of a country trapped between its filiative relationship with imperial power and its struggle to free itself from the European legacy. Considering displacement as a centrifugal process ingrained in the history of Australia, madness as an ex-centric physical and psychic condition appears to be enrooted in the colonial past of Australia as a “schizoid nation” with a “doubled form of consciousness”(Hodge and Mishra, 1990). And yet, the recurrent literary representations of dis-located identities can be considered as a strategy of resistance to, and contestation of, a fixed centre of discursive and political power, and as a means of re-appropriation of a marginalized identity excluded from European hegemonic formations of the self. In both Lawson’s and White’s stories madness becomes the metaphor for a problematic, non-conforming, struggling identity that does not accept to be stereotyped into an anonymous “Other”, thus acquiring the meaning of a subversion of the “reasonable” and the “normative”. The world of imagination and folly in which Lawson’s and White’s characters seek refuge in their mental derangement represents indeed a challenge and a threat to the over- emphasized importance given to rationality and pragmatism in the construction of an Australian national, central, authority.

Damnation or salvation? Journeys into madness in Henry Lawson and Patrick White's short stories

PES, Annalisa
2013

Abstract

The essay investigates the representations of madness in the short fiction of two Australian literary icons, considering them on the background of the ambivalent historical and cultural specificities of a (former) settler colony. In this context the issues of “place/displace-ment”, “identity”, “otherness”, “belonging/un-belonging” are further problematized by the destabilizing liminal position of a country trapped between its filiative relationship with imperial power and its struggle to free itself from the European legacy. Considering displacement as a centrifugal process ingrained in the history of Australia, madness as an ex-centric physical and psychic condition appears to be enrooted in the colonial past of Australia as a “schizoid nation” with a “doubled form of consciousness”(Hodge and Mishra, 1990). And yet, the recurrent literary representations of dis-located identities can be considered as a strategy of resistance to, and contestation of, a fixed centre of discursive and political power, and as a means of re-appropriation of a marginalized identity excluded from European hegemonic formations of the self. In both Lawson’s and White’s stories madness becomes the metaphor for a problematic, non-conforming, struggling identity that does not accept to be stereotyped into an anonymous “Other”, thus acquiring the meaning of a subversion of the “reasonable” and the “normative”. The world of imagination and folly in which Lawson’s and White’s characters seek refuge in their mental derangement represents indeed a challenge and a threat to the over- emphasized importance given to rationality and pragmatism in the construction of an Australian national, central, authority.
1443844748
9781443844741
australian literature; short story; madness; Social Alienation
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11562/579751
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