‘Touches of Nature that Make the Whole World Kin’: Furphy, Race and Anxiety
What appealed to generations of readers in Furphy can trouble a late twentieth-century reader: its call to nationhood, to one (white and assimilationist) nation; its lack of self-consciousness about what that meant in terms of dispossession of the pre-existing indigenous cultures; its heroicising of the bushman and worker, and its excoriation of the (absentee) capitalist landlord and squatter. This caricature of the rich texture of the novels, in fact, says more about the uses to which Such is Life in particular has been put by nationalist critics than about the novel itself which has retained its canonical status notwithstanding generations of critical misreadings (see Hadgraft) and neglect even by professional readers in Australian literature. This paper analyses one of these areas of contention: Furphy's stand on race, where the narratives locate themselves in the race debates (in particular monogenism and polygenism) and the realities of late nineteenth-century Aboriginal/European relations in Victoria.
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