This thesis explores three literary hoaxes in Australia's literary history - the Ern Malley affair of the 1940s, the emergence of the "indigenous" author B. Wongar in the 1970s, and the Demidenko affair of the 1990s. This thesis examines the discursive frameworks within which each of these literary hoaxes occurred and conceptualises them as forms of cultural elaboration that bring into focus certain ambivalences within the construction of Australian national identity. By focusing on these events in their historical contexts, this thesis will address the changing status and function of nationalism in Australia, as expressed in these three different events at three different times.
As each event unfolded, they both reflected and became sites of unpredictability and contradiction within the discursive construction of the nation. In all three cases, in a very real sense, the profound anxiety of Australian cultural authority has been "caught in the act" of its own composition. From this perspective, each of these phenomena can be seen as both reflecting and disrupting pre-existing debates about national identity revealing the way in which constructions of a genuine Australianness are linked to historically constituted debates that necessarily shift over time. This shift problematises the very authority and stability to which the term national identity lays claim. In each event, narratives of Australianness, and the singularity and authenticity of Australian national identity that they attempt to install, were ruptured by a dispersed and proliferating series of discursive relationships.
In this thesis, I attempt to deploy these events in such a way as to interrogate some of the processes by which a sense of national identity is constructed. In this way, they can be conceived of as disruptive in(ter)ventions in the project of constructing Australianness. Each event presumed to represent some crucial aspect of Australian identity already under question at the time of their respective emergences. Rather than determining how well each event represents that aspect of Australianness, I have hoped to read them as questioning the very terms by which national identity itself is constructed. This thesis considers not only how each event occurred, the anxieties it produced and the ruptures it caused, but also how the effects of each event were regulated and transformed by a complex play of discourses.