Reckoning with the Past: Family Historiographies in Postcolonial Australian Literature, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Reckoning with the Past

Family Historiographies in Postcolonial Australian Literature, 1st Edition

By Ashley Barnwell, Joseph Cummins


132 pages

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Hardback: 9781138088955
pub: 2018-11-26
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pub: 2018-12-07
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This is the first book to examine how Australian fiction writers draw on family histories to reckon with the nation’s colonial past. Located at the intersection of literature, history, and sociology, it explores the relationships between family storytelling, memory, and postcolonial identity. With attention to the political potential of family histories, Reckoning with the Past argues that authors’ often autobiographical works enable us to uncover, confront, and revise national mythologies. An important contribution to the emerging global conversation about multidirectional memory and the need to attend to the effects of colonisation, this book will appeal to an interdisciplinary field of scholarly readers.

Table of Contents


1. Dredging Up Family Secrets – Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide

2. Confronting the ‘Double Fold of Silence’ – Kim Scott and Hazel Brown’s Kayang & Me and Sally Morgan’s My Place

3. Belonging Across Generations – Brian Castro’s Birds of Passage and Shanghai Nights, and Alex Miller’s The Ancestor Game

4. Returning to Homelands – Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe and Christopher Koch’s The Many-Coloured Land: A Return to Ireland

5. Listening to the Ghosts of the Past – Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth



About the Authors

Ashley Barnwell is Ashworth Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Joseph Cummins has a PhD in Literary Studies from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and serves on the board of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.

About the Series

Memory Studies: Global Constellations

Memory Studies: Global Constellations

Memory Studies as an academic field of cultural inquiry emerges at a time when global public debates, buttressed by the fragmentation of nation states and their traditional narratives, have greatly accelerated. Societies are today pregnant with newly unmediated memories, once sequestered in broad collective representations and their ideological stances. But, the ‘past in the present’ has returned with a vengeance in the early 21st Century, and with it an expansion of categories of cultural experience and meaning. This new series explores the social and cultural stakes around forgetting, useful forgetting and remembering, locally, regionally, nationally and globally. It welcomes studies of migrant memory from failed states; micro-histories battling against collective memories; the mnemonic past of emotions; the mnemonic spatiality of sites of memory; and the reconstructive ethics of memory in the face of galloping informationalization, as this renders the ‘mnemonic’ more and more public and publically accessible.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General