On Not Being Australian : Mudrooroo and Demidenko

THERE are two parts to this title. That which comes after the colon is an obvious reference for an Australian collection such as this, both authors having gained a level of prominence that made them famous internationally. In the United States the journal PMLA included a reaction to the cases from the then President of the Modern Languages Association, Sander Gilman, who referred to Helen (Demidenko) Darville's 'intensely anti-Semitic novel The Hand That Signed the Paper (1994), which won the Miles Franklin Award' (23). Gilman went on to note that 'an Australian academic named Colin Johnson transformed himself into the aboriginal [sic] critic Mudrooroo' (23). It seems belittling to call Mudrooroo 'an Australian academic', but it might also seem limiting to call him just 'an Australian.' And now that Darville is no longer Demidenko she, too, is presumably just 'an Australian.' When they were accepted as 'Mudrooroo' and 'Demidenko' these writers had a particular role to play, each being clearly defined as specific types of'Australian.' Their demotion to 'just' Australian raises questions about the effects of their false identities, for their loss of what might be called 'ethnic authority' seems more than a simple shift of author category.

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Published 1 October 2004 in Volume 21 No. 4. Subjects: Australian identity, Cultural & national identity, Imposture.

Cite as: Goldie, Terry. ‘On Not Being Australian : Mudrooroo and Demidenko.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 2004. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.2c9d1ae207.