Old Orders, New Lands: The Earth Spirit in Picnic at Hanging Rock


Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock gives voice to a powerful theme which George Steiner has claimed is characteristic of Russian and American fiction—that is, 'encounters of man with a physical setting which can destroy him in moments of wanton grandeur'. This sense of nature unleashed is in part evoked in response to a confrontation with a vast continent which can bring with it 'exposures to natural forces at their most grandiose and ferocious'. It is a theme that Lindsay shares with writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and E.M. Forster in their depiction of America and India, and Lindsay's book has effectively brought it into the repertoire of Australian fiction.

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Published 1 May 1978 in Volume 8 No. 3. Subjects: Australian landscape - Literary portrayal, Australian literature - Comparisons with overseas literature, Perceptions of nature, Joan Lindsay.

Cite as: Kirkby, Joan. ‘Old Orders, New Lands: The Earth Spirit in Picnic at Hanging Rock.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 8, no. 3, 1978, doi: 10.20314/als.4f6030f116.