Dying of Landscape: E.L. Grant Watson and the Australian Desert


The six, relatively neglected Australian novels of Elliot Lovegood Grant Watson, written between 1914 and 1935, present an intriguing and complex reworking of their author's engagement with the Western Australian desert. Equipped with a broad literary background, a close knowledge of psychoanalysis and Jungian ideas, a deep interest in comparative religion and the prior experience of travel in the Middle East, as well as a training in biology and anthropology, Watson would seem the archetypal Renaissance man, uniquely qualified to interpret his experiences within the European context of his time. Yet, unlike his two later autobiographical explorations of this period, But to What Purpose (1946) and Journey under the Southern Stars (1968), the novels proposed such radical views about Aboriginal culture and European settlement that, despite their anti-feminist stance, they could now pass as respectably postcolonial and as prefigurings of the late twentieth-century preoccupation with the spirit of place that in Australia is peculiarly associated with desert areas.

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Published 1 May 1999 in Volume 19 No. 1. Subjects: Australian landscape - Literary portrayal, Bush, Characterisation, Deserts, Imagery, Metaphors, Narrative techniques, Women, Writer's craft.

Cite as: Haynes, Roslynn D.. ‘Dying of Landscape: E.L. Grant Watson and the Australian Desert.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 19, no. 1, 1999, doi: 10.20314/als.b551ea493e.