The Self and the Magic Lantern: Gender and Subjectivity in Australian Colonial Women’s Writing [1992]

Displaced from all that is familiar, the colonial subject experiences disorientation; a confusion which is represented in the dislocating experience of emigration and the ambivalent process of relocation. The consequences of that experience are textualised in the quotation from Louisa Clifton's journal. She writes a split self, feeling as she always has, but unable to express those feelings. What she does express is the disjunction between possible modes of signification and the reality of her individual experience. Migration involves a crisis of identity, and the colonial obsession with identification typically locates the struggle to reintegrate the self — to write the self — in an ongoing attempt to accommodate the strangeness of the new world. This struggle to overcome the sense of a ruptured identity can be seen in a concern with what has been called 'the development or recovery of an effective identifying relationship between self and place' (Ashcroft 9) and is necessary to alleviate the alienation of the migrant subject and enable a speaking position, a new, colonial subjectivity, to be established.

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Published 1 May 1992 in Volume 15 No. 3. Subjects: Alienation, Australian women writers, Colonial life, Colonial literature & writers, Gender roles, Isolation (Emotional & social), Landscape & identity, Women, 19th Century Women Writers.

Cite as: Bird, Delys. ‘The Self and the Magic Lantern: Gender and Subjectivity in Australian Colonial Women’s Writing [1992].’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, 1992. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.eefb97f1c2.