Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English Literatures Program

Abstract

Starting with a false premise can get you into all sorts of trouble. In Australia, a migrant is not necessarily somebody who has migrated to this country. People who have been born here, but look or sound different, are often referred to as ‘second’- or ‘third generation’ migrants. At the same time white, English-speaking migrants are generally not seen as migrants at all. Literal meaning is swallowed into or distorted by perceptions of a national cultural ‘core and periphery’ and institutionalised discourse, centered on multiculturalism.

In this thesis I am arguing that it is this false core/periphery binary that has made a particular group of migrants ,– those who are white and have migrated from English-speaking countries – invisible – invisible as migrants, that is. For the writers within this group, this leads to critical blindness in relation to their work and place within Australian national literature. As a critic however, I look at the work of Ruth Park, Alex Miller and John Mateer and see it is profoundly influenced by their migrant experience. More often than not they write about themes that are typical of migrant writing: alienation, identity, belonging, home, being in-between cultures, history. For a more appropriate, complete appreciation of their work, this thesis argues it is imperative to go back to the beginning and return the ‘default setting’ of migrant to its literal meaning.

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