Alexis Wright's second novel, Carpentaria, received critical acclaim upon its publication by Giramondo in 2006. As the recipient of the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2007, Carpentaria cemented Wright's position as the country's foremost Indigenous novelist. This article places Carpentaria within contemporary discussions of “big, ambitious novels” by contemporary women novelists by examining the ways the novel simultaneously invites and resists its inclusion into an established canon of “great Australian novels” (GANs). While critics have been quick to celebrate the formal innovations of Carpentaria as what makes it worthy of GAN status, the novel nevertheless opposes the integrationist and homogenizing myths that accompany canonization. Therefore, the article finds that Wright's vision of a future Australia involves moments of antagonism and mutual understanding between white settler and Indigenous communities. This article uses the work of Homi Bhabha to argue that Carpentaria demonstrates the emergence of a third space wherein negotiation between these two cultures produces knowledge that is “new, neither the one nor the other.” In so doing, Wright shows the resilience of Indigenous knowledge even as it is subject to transformation upon contact with contradictory ideological and epistemological frameworks.
“An Indigenous Sovereignty of the Imagination”: Reenvisioning the Great Australian Novel in Alexis Wright's Carpentaria
Liz Shek-Noble, PhD, is a project assistant professor in the Center for Global Communication Strategies at the University of Tokyo. Her research areas include literary and media disability studies, contemporary Australian literature, and literary bioethics. Her work has appeared in publications including the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Disability and Society, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. She is currently working on a multiyear project about cultural representations of disability in contemporary Australia and is coediting a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies on intersections between disability studies and critical animal studies.
Liz Shek-Noble; “An Indigenous Sovereignty of the Imagination”: Reenvisioning the Great Australian Novel in Alexis Wright's Carpentaria. Genre 1 July 2021; 54 (2): 195–219. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-9263065
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