Macquarie University
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Landscape, history and Indigeneity in the Australian narrative: magic nihilism in the works of Richard Flanagan and Alexis Wright : A thesis and novel submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts, Department of English, Macquarie University

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:20 authored by Jamie Derkenne
Richard Flanagan and Alexis Wright are two contemporary Australian authors considered by some, including the authors themselves, to be inspired by Latin American magic realism. However, using a chronological approach that examines misapprehension of the landscape and its signification since colonial times, and the extension of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy into a theory of landscape, this thesis demonstrates the ontological equivocation evident in many of Flanagan's and Wright's works is part of a much older and particularly Australian tradition that evokes competing ontologies imbued with nihilist elements often ameliorated with humour. The alternate ontologies presented by Wright, Flanagan, and some Australian authors of the colonial, postcolonial and modern eras are induced by and primarily contained within the apprehension and perception of the Australian landscape. The perceptual contradictions are brought about by three elements: the failure of Australian landscape to affirm the tenets of Romanticism; the haunting of the landscape either through the absence or dislocation of an Indigenous presence or through the erasure of cultural and historical perturbation; and the inability to remythologise the demythologised landscape in any form that binds the description of self affirmatively with being. The creative writing component, Bowraville : Twelve Stories is a selection of interconnected stories centred on the town of Bowraville in Northern New South Wales. The stories individually and collectively engage with the literary tropes of magic nihilism discussed in the critical component by examining the way landscape, history and perceptions of Indigeneity affect ways of being for the protagonists. As such, the stories are ontologically confounding, nihilist and sometimes humorous.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. 'Magic realism' and Australian narrative -- 2. Being in the landscape -- 3. Magic and nihilism in the colonial landscape 1788-1901 -- 4. Flanagan and Wright's response to colonial magic nihilism -- 5. Magic and nihilism in the postcolonial landscape 1901-1972 -- 6. Flanagan and Wright's response to postcolonial magic nihilism -- 7. Magic and nihilism in the modern era 1973-2016 -- 8. Flanagan and Wright's response to modern period magic nihilism -- 9. Conclusions -- Works cited -- Bowraville : twelve stories.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 219-243

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jane Messer

Additional Supervisor 1

Toby Davidson


Copyright Jamie Derkenne 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (427 pages) : 1 colour illustration

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