‘Home Ground, Foreign Territory’: Living with Australia
My title is borrowed from the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, whose 1972 novel Surfacing opens with the unnamed (English-speaking) central character returning to the small French-Canadian settlement of her late childhood to seek her lost father, and lost past: 'Now we're on my home ground, foreign territory.' Atwood's book finely explores the complications of what 'home' and 'foreign' can mean, complications in which the very different connotations of 'ground' and 'territory' are central—the one instinctive and personal, the other social and cultural. Such terms are unfashionable, not to say perilous, for the critic, and especially so for one writing (as it might be supposed I do) from home ground in Devon—the apple tree beyond my open window blossoms this late April day—about the foreign territory of Australia. I hope to explain why, and for what reasons, such simple cosmology is as unprofitable for critics as for writers.
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Published 1 June 1991 in European Perspectives: Contemporary Essays on Australian Literature. Subjects: Australian identity, Australian literature - Study & teaching - Overseas, Place & identity.