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Modernism, Postcolonialism, and GlobalismAnglophone Literature, 1950 to the Present$
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Richard Begam and Michael Valdez Moses

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199980963

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199980963.001.0001

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Interior History, Tempered Selves

Interior History, Tempered Selves

David Malouf, Modernism, and Imaginative Possession

(p.257) 12 Interior History, Tempered Selves
Modernism, Postcolonialism, and Globalism

Brigid Rooney

Oxford University Press

Focusing on Johnno (1975), An Imaginary Life (1978), and Remembering Babylon (1993), this chapter argues that David Malouf’s redeployment of the formal devices of the modernist novel enables a distinctively Australian representation of postcolonial modernity. It explores Malouf’s public and literary advocacy of “imaginative possession” as a means to achieve settler belonging and effect true reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Postcolonial critics, however, have accused Malouf of appropriating Aboriginal history and identity. This chapter argues that modernist investments within Malouf’s fiction enable imaginative possession but also yield enigma. Malouf’s use of Woolf and Faulkner’s shifts in narrative perspective, Proust’s manipulation of time and memory, Proust and Joyce’s reworking of the Bildungsroman, and the modernist intensification of lyrical subjectivity enables the tempering and attuning of settler selves to place. Yet in Johnno modernist resources unravel fixed truths, pointing instead to creative error and the fabrications of the self.

Keywords:   David Malouf, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, modernism, postcolonialism, Australian literature, aboriginal peoples, modernity

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