'Our own way back': Spatial memory in the poetry of David Malouf

Bitto, Emily (2008) 'Our own way back': Spatial memory in the poetry of David Malouf. Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 8 92-106.

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Author Bitto, Emily
Title 'Our own way back': Spatial memory in the poetry of David Malouf
Journal name Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature
ISSN 1447-8986
Publication date 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 8
Start page 92
End page 106
Total pages 15
Place of publication Canberra, Australia
Publisher Association for the Study of Australian Literature
Language eng
Abstract Much of David Malouf’s writing enacts what may be referred to as 'spatial memory'. His poetry utilises a uniquely 'layered' time-perspective in which Malouf repeatedly revisits places of personal significance over numerous collections and, through memory and imagination, imbues these spaces with mythological significance. This process can be seen as a direct response to what Malouf perceives as 'the need to remap the world so that wherever you happen to be is the centre'. Although it may at first appear as simply an autobiographical phenomenon, this process of 'spatial memory' is also revealed as significant on a broader social level, as part of Malouf’s longstanding project of redefining Australia, in the eyes of its inhabitants, as a significant cultural and literary centre. When Malouf began publishing in the nineteen-sixties, his poetry, as well as his first novel Johnno, focused on the tension between the percieved 'provinciality'of Australia and the 'exoticism' of the cultural and colonial centres of England and Europe. It is arguable that Malouf's literary remapping of centre and edge is still pertinent today, though now in relation to the increasing cultural dominance of the United States. This essay examines the role of 'spatial memory' in Malouf’s poetry, focusing in particular on his numerous poems devoted to the area around Moreton Bay. It demonstrates the process by which these poems of personal memoir become significant on the broader level of social memory, and draws this exploration into a discussion of Malouf’s politics of space and memory.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

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Sub-type: Article (original research)
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