Trauma, memory and landscape in Queensland: women writing ‘a new alphabet of moss and water’

Gildersleeve, Jessica (2012) Trauma, memory and landscape in Queensland: women writing ‘a new alphabet of moss and water’. Queensland Review, 19 2: 205-216. doi:10.1017/qre.2012.23

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Author Gildersleeve, Jessica
Title Trauma, memory and landscape in Queensland: women writing ‘a new alphabet of moss and water’
Journal name Queensland Review   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1321-8166
Publication date 2012-12-01
Year available 2012
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/qre.2012.23
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 19
Issue 2
Start page 205
End page 216
Total pages 212
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Abstract The cultural association of Queensland with a condition of imagination or unreality has a strong history. Queensland has always ‘retained much of its quality as an abstraction, an idea’, asserts Thea Astley in her famous essay on the state's identity (Astley 1976: 263). In one of the most quoted descriptions of Queensland's literary representation, Pat Buckridge draws attention to its ‘othering’, suggesting that Queensland possesses ‘a different sense of distance, different architecture, a different apprehension of time, a distinctive preoccupation with personal eccentricity, and . . . a strong sense of cultural antitheses’ (1976: 30). Rosie Scott comes closest to the concerns of this present article when she asserts that this so-called difference ‘is definitely partly to do with the landscape. In Brisbane, for instance, the rickety old wooden Queenslanders drenched in bougainvillea, the palms, the astounding number of birds even in Red Hill where I lived, the jacarandas, are all unique in Australia’ (quoted in Sheahan-Bright and Glover 2002: xv). For Vivienne Muller, Buckridge's ‘cultural antitheses’ are most clearly expressed in precisely this interpretation of Queensland as a place somewhere between imagined wilderness and paradise (2001: 72). Thus, as Gillian Whitlock suggests, such differences are primarily fictional constructs that feed ‘an image making process founded more on nationalist debates about city and bush, centre and periphery, the Southern states versus the Deep North than on any “real” sense of regionalism’ (quoted in Muller 2001: 80). Queensland, in this reading, is subject to the Orientalist discourse of an Australian national identity in which the so-called civilisation of the south-eastern urban capitals necessitates a dark ‘other’. I want to draw out this understanding of the landscape as it is imagined in Queensland women's writing. Gail Reekie (1994: 8) suggests that, ‘Women's sense of place, of region, is powerfully constructed by their marginality to History.’ These narratives do assert Queensland's ‘difference’, but as part of an articulation of psychological extremity experienced by those living on the edges of a simultaneously ideological and geographically limited space. The Queensland landscape, I argue, is thus used as both setting for and symbol of traumatic experience.
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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