Is Australia (still) Postcolonial (yet)?: Review of Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature.

Almost ten years ago, a spate of edited books in Canada by the academics Laura Moss and Cynthia Sugars brought important insights from the then-vibrant field ofpostcolonial literary studies to bear on questions about Canadian literature. Their work rigorously examined the applicability and difficulty of reading literature from settler societies through the lens of postcolonialism. The challenges and benefits of raising postcolonial issues in Australian literature has been long argued by academics such as Helen Tiffin, Bill Ashcroft, Graham Huggan, Alan Lawson and me, among many others, but no mirror-set of Australian texts has yet been published. 'There is possibly no more vexed question in post-colonial studies than the status of settler colonies' (15) writes Bill Ashcroft in the first chapter of Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature. In a well-written Introduction to the volume, O'Reilly rehearses the challenges to postcolonial approaches in settler literatures, arguing energetically for the inclusion ofsettler colonies in general and Australia in particular within the ambit ofpostcolonial literary studies. In so doing, he draws attention to the way the American academy has managed to tick on relatively unchallenged by postcolonial approaches more broadly, almost entirely ignorant of Australian literature. His further point is that this lacuna should concern scholars because America is, as others have pointed out, a postcolonial - indeed neo-imperial - settler society itself In the United States where O'Reilly works, postcolonial has come to mean writing from the Caribbean, Africa, or South Asia, which he argues is included in literary studies as a form of both tokenism and exoticism. O'Reilly's point is that an edited collection such as this one is long overdue since the complex and ambivalent nature of postcolonialism in settler societies offers much to challenge and enrich the broader field of postcolonialism, even as a turn toward transnational studies takes effect in literary criticism in general.

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Published 1 June 2012 in Volume 27 No. 2. Subjects: Postcolonial criticism, Postcolonialism.

Cite as: Kuttainen, Victoria. ‘Is Australia (still) Postcolonial (yet)?: Review of Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature..’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, 2012.