Cultural Memory in Postcolonial Fiction: The Uses and Abuses of Ned Kelly


Focusing on Carey’s and Drewe’s representations of the Ned Kelly legend, the article explores the issues of memory, cultural myths and postcolonial fiction. Huggan argues that the two novels ‘illustrate the importance of the literary text in structuring the individual/collective memory process’, drawing attention to the ways in which memory is dependent on metaphor, particularly metaphors of the body, to actualise remembered experience. Both works ‘are postcolonial renderings, not just of one of Australia’s most powerful national narratives, but also one of its most enduring and yet paradoxically amnesiac cultural myths. In remembering Ned Kelly, both writers draw attention to alternative histories inscribed upon the wild colonial body, through which that nation’s chequered past can be creatively transformed and its present critically reassessed.’ The article concludes with reflections on the malleability and current fashionability of the Kelly legend, assessing its implications for ‘a Wester ex-settler society whose own thriving memory industry bears so many of the contradictory signs of the nation’s colonial past’.

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Published 1 May 2002 in Volume 20 No. 3. Subjects: Australian culture, Australian myths, Kelly Gang, Memory, Myths & legends, Postcolonial literature & writers, Peter Carey, Robert Drewe.

Cite as: Huggan, Graham. ‘Cultural Memory in Postcolonial Fiction: The Uses and Abuses of Ned Kelly.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 3, 2002, doi: 10.20314/als.0cf1504a84.