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Prominent Themes of Australian Literature

Updated: Feb 16


Introduction

  1. Australian literature is a literary piece of writing in an oral or written form produced in Australia.

  2. The Aboriginals did not have any written literature. For Aboriginal people their traditional culture, stories, and song are seen in their literature.

  3. Literary writings began with European settlers.


Prominent Themes

  1. Landscape and Environment

  2. Australian Culture

  3. Identity of Settlers

  4. Isolation and estrangement

  5. Migration Experience


Genres of Australian Theme

  1. The Ripping Yarn

  2. Bush Poetry

  3. 20th Century Australian works

  4. Indigenous Australian Literature


The Ripping Yarn

  • Australia's oldest literary convention Tales of Adventure and Struggles of the Settler in an unfamiliar land.

  • Stories about natural disaster and their struggle to survive against all odds.

  • This literature helped the European to gain knowledge about the newly found land of Australia.

Major Works

  • "Robbery Under Arms" by Rolf Boldrewood - This novel tells the story of a group of bushrangers (outlaws) in the Australian outback who engage in daring heists and battles with the police.

  • "For the Term of His Natural Life" by Marcus Clarke - This novel tells the story of a convict in a brutal Australian penal colony who escapes and embarks on a series of adventures.

  • "The Man from Snowy River" by Banjo Paterson - This poem tells the story of a young stockman who takes on a dangerous ride to recapture a herd of wild horses.

  • "We of the Never-Never" by Jeannie Gunn - This memoir tells the story of a woman who moves to a remote cattle station in the Australian outback and experiences the challenges and adventures of life in the bush.

  • "The Squatter's Daughter" by Rosa Praed - This novel tells the story of a young woman who inherits a large cattle station in Queensland and must navigate the dangers and intrigues of life in the Australian bush.

Bush Poetry

  • Most famous of Australian literature.

  • The songs tell personal stories of life in the wide-open country of Australia.

  • Typical subjects include mining, raising, and droving cattle, wanderings, war stories, and class conflicts between the landless workers and the landowner.

Major Works

  • "Freedom on the Wallaby" by Henry Lawson. It was written as a comment on the 1891 Australian shearers' strike and published by William Lane in the Worker in Brisbane, on 16 May 1891. The 1891 shearers' strike is one of Australia's earliest and most important industrial disputes.

  • "The Sick Stockrider" by Adam Lindsay Gordon. The concept behind Gordon's poem is simple enough - a dying stockrider looks back on his life - it's the execution that's the thing. We first encounter the stockrider as he comes to the end of a long ride, during which he has suffered rather badly and been helped by his mate Ned. He is lowered to the ground and it becomes obvious that he isn't going to move again. He doesn't want to go on.

  • "Waltzing Matilda" by Banjo Peterson is an Australia bush ballad about a poor man, who is caught stealing a sheep and drowns while trying to escape. The term 'Waltzing Matilda' means to walk from place to place searching for work. Banjo Paterson wrote the lyrics to Waltzing Matilda, and Christina Macpherson composed the music.

20th Century Australian works

  • Most famous of Australian literature.

  • The songs tell personal stories of life in the wide-open country of Australia.

  • Typical subjects include mining, raising, and droving cattle, wanderings, war stories, and class conflicts between the landless workers and the landowner.

Major Works

  • "Selected Poems" by Judith Wright (1971) showcases Wright's skill as a poet and her ability to explore a wide range of themes and styles. Her poetry is marked by her use of rich imagery, her commitment to social justice and environmentalism, and her ability to evoke the complexities and contradictions of human experience.

  • "Collected Poems" by A.D. Hope (1966) showcases Hope's range as a poet and his ability to explore a wide range of themes and styles. His poetry is marked by his intellectual depth, his wit and irony, and his skillful use of language and form.

  • "Five Visions of Captain Cook" by David Malouf (1979) - This sequence of poems imagines different perspectives on the famous explorer Captain Cook and his encounters with Indigenous peoples in Australia and the Pacific. Malouf explores themes of colonialism, cultural difference, and the power dynamics of history.

  • "The Eye of the Storm" by Patrick White (1973) - This novel tells the story of a wealthy Australian family and their relationships with each other. The novel explores themes of family, aging, and the power dynamics within families.

Indigenous Australian Literature

  • Recognize the diversity of Indigenous cultures - There are over 250 Indigenous language groups in Australia, each with its own unique culture, history, and traditions.

  • Explore the oral storytelling tradition - Many Indigenous cultures have a strong tradition of oral storytelling, which has been passed down from generation to generation.

  • Consider the political and social context of Indigenous Australian literature - Indigenous Australian literature often reflects the political and social context of contemporary Australia.

Major Works

  • Jack Davis - His works often dealt with the experiences of Indigenous Australians and explored themes such as identity, displacement, and the ongoing impact of colonization on Indigenous communities. Here are some of his notable works: "Kullark" (1979), "The Dreamers" (1982), and "No Sugar" (1985).

  • Kim Scott- His works often explore the experiences of Indigenous Australians and the ongoing impact of colonization on Indigenous communities. He is known for his powerful portrayal of the complexities of Indigenous identity and the struggle to maintain cultural heritage in the face of social and political pressures. Here are some of Kim Scott's notable works: "True Country" (1993), "Benang: From the Heart" (1999), and "That Deadman Dance" (2010).

  • Kate Howarth is an Indigenous Australian author and social justice advocate. She is a member of the Yuin nation and was born and raised on the south coast of New South Wales. Howarth's work focuses on social justice issues affecting Indigenous Australians, particularly in the areas of health and education. Here are some of Kate Howarth's notable works: "Ten Hail Marys" (2005), and "Settling Day" (2012).

To Conclude

  • Prominent themes of Australian literature include the exploration of the Australian landscape, the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities, the search for identity, and family dynamics.

  • Australian literature reflects the country's unique cultural and social history, including the impact of migration, war, and political and social change.

  • In recent years, Australian literature has become increasingly diverse, with a growing number of voices representing a range of cultures, experiences, and perspectives.

  • Australian literature provides a powerful reflection of Australian society, past and present, and has contributed significantly to the country's cultural heritage.

  • Overall, Australian literature continues to evolve and thrive, providing a platform for new voices and perspectives, and reflecting the ongoing complexity and diversity of Australian life.


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