Short Fiction Short Nation: The Ideologies of Australian Realism


This paper examines the ways in which short stories have interacted with different national contexts throughout the history of modern Australia, endorsing and resisting what Fredric Jameson calls the symbolic resolution of narrative, and subsequently considers the processes by which certain critical trends and interpretive emphases can illuminate or obscure that interaction through comparative readings of texts by Henry Lawson and John Kinsella.

This essay pursues three mutually implied provocations in the relationship between nationalism and literary form in Australian history. First, the concentration of a distinctly Australian literary identity during and subsequent to the hallowed Bulletin years of the 1890’s can and should be read as an acceleration of late stage logics of colonial elimination as identified by the historian Patrick Wolfe (387) Second, the discursive elisions and contradictions within that desperately national textual body which have been symptomatically interpreted by a certain Freudian emphasis of postcolonial criticism – as tremors of conscience within the settler mind – can and should be read as subsequent and more sophisticated functions of those colonial logics, and not as failures or limitations thereof. In other words, they should be read as what Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang describe as ‘a settler move to innocence’ (11). Third, despite the anxious necessity of Australian literature to…

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Published 2 November 2018 in Volume 33 No. 3. Subjects: Aboriginal Australians - Literary portrayal, Australian short stories, Short stories, Henry Lawson, John Kinsella.

Cite as: Dunk, Jonathan. ‘Short Fiction Short Nation: The Ideologies of Australian Realism.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 33, no. 3, 2018, doi: 10.20314/als.8ae47e6166.