Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Australian Literary Identity

Category Australia, Identity
Essay type Research
Words 1094 (4 pages)
Views 364

Topic #2: Discuss the ways in which issues relating to literature and national identity in Australia are examined in Australian writing. Between the 1880s and 1890s, Australia became socially inclined to define it’s nations voice. To satisfy a distinctive sense of identity and credibility across the globe. This desire for independence in Australia, both socially and politically, was a broad aspect of a greater movement towards the nations identity. Encouraged and instrumented by estimable Australian literature, the move to define a cultural independence in Australia, also inducted a change and product of literary nationalism.

Literary nationalism became a dominant ascribe to characterising Australia and setting it apart from Britain. Setting, characters, theme and style were prioritised coherently with the identity of the country. Literature placed a great essence upon rural Australia and the ‘the bush‘, which promoted visions of Australian characters that based qualities among mate ship and egalitarianism. The writing style was essentially comprehensible with Australian vernacular, with a daunting sense of humour and irony. Literature in the 20th century also saw a change in Australian perception.

After 1914, changes in perception and national identity developed across the country once again. The 1940s and the 1970s, saw a greater expansion in growth, change and the revelation of the Australian short story. International influence took greater hold of writers and a sense of sophistication encompassed the essence of nationalism, identity and literature. However, it is the essence of writing in these earlier times, that prove the importance that Australia’s identity posed upon society and the esteem it captivated to presence Australian literature again in the 20th century.

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With the initiation of Australia’s will to be identified, writers emerged as a new generation. Dedicated to writing distinctively, as a way to suit and support the Australian strive to independence. Writers such as Henry Lawson, A. B. Paterson, Miles Franklin and Barbara Baynton wrote only with the concern and consideration for truly Australian literary tradition and distinctiveness. In order for Australia to be uniquely identified as its own country, different from anything in Britain, the bush quickly become a focal point, and often its own character, in these writers work.

This was a discovery ideal, where Australian literary nationalists depicted their view of Australia and promoted a true identity for the nation, for the first time. Pastoral landscape became an intense recollection of the make of the nation and contrasted favorably with views of city life. In 1889, Paterson wrote Clancy of the Overflow, which was featured in The Bulletin (Australian Authors, 2002). The poem illustrated a firm sense of what Australians were aiming to be identified as, hardy, living in the outback, which strongly and clearly opposed city living. As the stocks are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing, For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know” (A. B Paterson, 2002) and “I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy, Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall” (A. B Paterson, 2002) these extracts of Clancy on the Overflow show that Paterson was a strong interpreter for the Australian ideal. The bushman became an ideal distinction of the average Australian character, which was clearly an encouragement by Paterson and Lawson.

In 1958, historian Russell Ward essentially denied the ideal and deemed the typical bushman a nations myth, by which farmers in Australia were in fact a minority. Alas, it became a true figure of Australia’s identity, through the strong presence it had in Australian literature. While bush life remained the main theme in most of literature at the time, often writers possessed differing opinions. Characteristics in which bush life was represented, would present itself in writing, basely dependent on the author.

Paterson portrayed a romantic visualisation of life in the outback, condemning any consideration to city life as a positive attribute in society. On the contrary, Lawson was interested in the perception of bush life as tough life. While Lawson still mythologised bush life with character, he wrote mainly to focus on the struggles people fought to overcome, based on their lives in rural areas. Due to these differing descriptions of Australian identity, Paterson and Lawson became rivals in The Bulletin to pose who had the greater perception of rural life.

Borderland by Lawson, is a better example of the authors vision of rural life, proving to focus on the struggles and the unwelcoming danger that it placed upon city dwellers. “Treacherous tracks that trap the strange, endless roads that gleam and glare, Dark and evil-looking gullies - hiding secrets here and there! ” (Lawson, 2010). Throughout the duration of these rivalries, Lawson imposed on Paterson’s authenticity and often referred to him as a ‘city bushman’. Paterson wrote In Defence of the Bush, which in reaction Lawson’s comments and in favour of his ideals where he addressed Lawson in the first line. So you’re back from up the country, Mister Lawson, where you went, And you’re cursing all the business in a bitter discontent” (Paterson, 2010). Asides from the writers rivalry, both Paterson and Lawson essentially aimed to develop literary nationalism in concentration of the Australian bush. They proved the importance that reinforced rural Australian identity and its central role in the mythology of Australia. Paterson and Lawson alone, emphasised the use of rural Australia as a literary identification of the nation.

Deeming their participation through writing, they demonstrated an effort to distinguish Australia uniquely. Issues relating to Australia’s will to possess a unique identity across the globe, was closely regarded through Australian literature and to Australian authors. Using the unique comparative relationship between both A. B. Paterson and Henry Lawson it is clear that the use of setting, character, theme and style relative to bush life and the characteristics of the bushman are operational.

The dominant majority of literature examined is closely identifiable with these types of descriptions. They prove to hold great essence in the attempt to capture a unique national identity. Issues relating to literature and national identity in Australian writing are obvious and present among early Australian writing during the 1880s and the 1890s. Thus, it is clear, that literature was a key utensil in the instruction and efforts to provide Australia with its own identification and set it apart from its partnership with Britain.

References 1. Patterson, A. B. (2002). Australian Authors: Clancy of the Overflow. URL: http://www. middlemiss. org/lit/authors/patersonab/poetry/clancy. html Retrieved: 20 October 2010. 2. Lawson, H. (2010). Poem Hunter: Borderland. URL: http://www. poemhunter. com/best-poems/henry-lawson/borderland/. Retrieved: 20 October 2010. 3. Paterson, A. B. (2010). Old Poetry: Defence of the Bush. URL: http://oldpoetry. com/opoem/25342-A-B--Banjo-Paterson-In-Defence-of-the-Bush. Retrieved: 20 October 2010. 4. AUST11-100 Seminar Slides.

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Australian Literary Identity. (2018, Sep 07). Retrieved from

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