Pioneer or invader?: situational metafiction in the settler nations

Anderson, Mark W. (Mark Willis) (2009) Pioneer or invader?: situational metafiction in the settler nations. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The settler nations of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa represent an overlooked area of postcolonial theory. The fact that three of these four countries were among the only four to reject the United Nations Declaration on Aboriginal Rights (September 13, 2007) highlights the unresolved political natures of these "invader-settler nations." Stephen Slemon suggests in his essay "The English Side of the Lawn" that this area of postcolonial theory requires detailed historical and cultural analysis (283). My thesis undertakes this project, by examining the use of historical figures and events in the contemporary fiction of the settler nations, looking at the work of writers from both indigenous and settler traditions. -- My research challenges the applicability of Linda Hutcheon's seminal postmodern work A Poetics of Postmodernism, to the contemporary historiographic novel of the settler nations. These novels are often written in an aesthetic that corresponds to Hutcheon's category of historiographic metafiction. While much of Hutcheon's work is compelling and continues to be useful in defining postmodernism, her overarching definition of historiographic metafiction threatens to subsume much politically driven writing under the apolitical umbrella of postmodernism: "[Historiographic metafiction's| use of history is not a modernist look to the "authorizing past" for legitimation. It is a questioning of any such authority as the basis of knowledge-and power" (Poetics 185). My thesis demonstrates that the application of this construct of postmodern theory to the contemporary historiographic novel of the settler nations is misleading. While clearly and demonstrably partaking of the aesthetic that Hutcheon delineates for the postmodern novel (marked by the conscious use of parody, intertexuality, self-reflexivity, a questioning of the status of the historical referent, and a general scepticism toward meta-narratives) the contemporary historical novel of the settler nations, uses this supposedly apolitical aesthetic in a bifurcated and deeply dialectical fashion, problematizing "public" history and unproblematically asserting a subaltern history. These novels cannot be called postmodern in Hutcheon's terms as they present a clear dialectic. This dialectic (as will be demonstrated) is, in most cases, either settler versus mother country or indigene versus settler. The texts studied in this thesis represent an area of overlap between postmodernism and postcolonialism, an area that is unacknowledged by current theoretical constructs in both fields. This overlap is a rich area of study, which has ramifications for the development of both postmodern and postcolonial theory. -- My work, through literary, historical, and political analysis, elucidates the moral/political vectors of these novels. This new and hybrid form of writing is defined by David Attwell, in his book J. M. Coetzee: South Africa and the Politics of Writing, as situational metafiction: "a mode of fiction that draws attention to the historicity of discourses, to the way subjects are positioned within and by them, and, finally, to the interpretive process, with its acts of contestation and appropriation. Of course, all these things have a regional and temporal specificity” (J. M. Coetzee 20). This thesis applies Attwell's category to the contemporary historiographic novel of the settler nations, where situational metafiction has become a widespread and influential form of political writing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8918
Item ID: 8918
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2009
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Hutcheon, Linda, 1947---Criticism and interpretation; Postcolonialism; Postmodernism

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