This thesis takes a phenomenological approach to the study of the geographical, spatial and temporal consciousness exhibited by the literary imaginations of three contemporary Australian writers: David Malouf, Randolph Stow and Les A. Murray.
The introduction outlines the approach and places it in the context of recent world-wide projects for "literary geography" or "geographies of the imagination"; it tries to show the special relevance of such a project in an Australian context, and the unfulfilled need for it in the emerging critical understanding of the works of the three writers under analysis. In particular, the introduction sets out the idea of the circle, derived from Georges Poulet’s The Metamorphoses of the Circle, as a "mental form" through which to approach many levels of the three writers’ evocation of a "world". These range from the global plane of the old European imperial centre and colonial periphery towards which the three writers’ works consciously orient themselves, through the geography of their native continent of Australia, which plays another variation on the circle with its green inhabited perimeter and red desert centre, to the level of the writers’ home regions, their personal "centres of the world". Through the "mental form" of the circle, the introduction .aims to show, this global, national and regional literary cartography is connected with more abstract levels of spatial and temporal perception and
conceptualization: cognition, sensation, feeling and the formation of ideas, and more especially writing.
The three parts that follow in the main body of the thesis describe three very different approaches to the evocation of a "world", which yet are comparable in approximating a similar geographical and historical starting-point: that of growing up in Australia-in the shadow of World War II.
The first chapter applies the general framework of the thesis to the poetry and prose of David Malouf, finding in Malouf’s work the imprint of a peripheral world-view, where the world is consistently seen from an edge and constructed by the imposition of limits. The peripheral vantage-point is shown to pervade many aspects of Malouf’s work from tracing the outline of Australia on a map to his view of psychology, the creation of personae in his poetry and characterization in his
fiction. If the spatial focus in Malouf’s work is the edge (seen in such recurrent motifs in his work as verandahs, suburbs, coastlines), the temporal focus is found to be the moment. The human realm mapped is found to be the self, the mind in relation to the body and the self to the other. The cartography in a more abstract sense is found to be one of perception, cognition and recognition, and the resulting "vision" argued to be minimalist, but comic.