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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Nathanael David O’Reilly
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Between the City and the Bush: Suburbia in the Contemporary Australian Novel
Dr. Gwen Tarbox, Chair
Dr. Allen Webb
Dr. Todd Kuchta
Dr. Nicholas Birns
Date: Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Emeriti Lounge, Walwood Hall
Australia's most important national narratives take place in the bush, the outback, and overseas. The dominant representations of Australia, both within the nation and abroad, focus on the outback, the bush and the cities. However, Australia is one of the most suburban societies in the world and has been since the mid-nineteenth-century. Nevertheless, Australian novels are rarely set in suburbia. This dissertation examines representations of suburbia in contemporary Australian novels. Focusing on the relationship between colonialism, the physical development of suburbia and the anti-suburban intellectual tradition, my chapters address a number of issues, including immigration, environmental degradation, Indigenous rights, non-indigenous belonging, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, sexuality, religion and spirituality, and the role of the artist in society. This dissertation outlines the history of the anti-suburban intellectual tradition within Australia, the connections between the British, American and Australian anti-suburban intellectual traditions, and the effect of the anti-suburban tradition on Australian literature and Australian literary criticism, before proceeding to analyze eleven novels. This project examines novels published between 1961 and 2005, demonstrating the establishment, development and perpetuation of the anti-suburban tradition in the Australian novel. The first two chapters argue against the dominant critical perception of Patrick White's canonical novels Riders in the Chariot (1961) and The Solid Mandala (1966) as anti-suburban, contending that White's novels present suburbia ambivalently, including both celebratory and disparaging representations of suburbia. This dissertation demonstrates that the anti-suburban tradition in the Australian novel was established by George Johnston with his classic novel My Brother Jack (1964), and shows that the anti-suburban tradition was perpetuated throughout the following four decades by David Malouf, Tim Winton, Melissa Lucashenko and A.L. McCann. In the final two chapters, It is argued that Gerald Murnane and Peter Carey reject the anti-suburban tradition and utilize suburbia as a setting for fictional experimentation and intensive engagement with social issues, demonstrating that suburbia, the site in which most Australians live, contains a wealth of subjects for novelists.