Señor Barton’s House

James Halford (2010). Señor Barton’s House MPhil Thesis, English, Media Studies, and Art Histoy, The University of Queensland.

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Author James Halford
Thesis Title Señor Barton’s House
School, Centre or Institute English, Media Studies, and Art Histoy
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-06
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Total pages 300
Total colour pages 2
Total black and white pages 298
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary Abstract Both the creative and critical components of this dissertation concern New Australia, William Lane’s nineteenth-century Utopian Settlement in Paraguay. The ten linked works of short fiction in Señor Barton’s House explore the interaction between tourists, journalists, and writers who visit the site of the former commune today, and the descendants of Lane’s Utopians who live there. Tom Barton, protagonist of several of the narratives, is the last-surviving member of the 1893 migration, and runs a guesthouse for Australian ‘pilgrims’ in Paraguay. The collection begins with the arrival of a visitor at Barton’s house: María Agustina Martínez, a young Argentine with her own connection to the colony. Convinced she will be his final guest, Barton persuades Agustina to help him write an account of his life. But with the old man’s deafness and unreliable memory this will not be an easy task. The manuscript compiled by the last pilgrim is a collision of memory and fantasy that crosses between Australia, Paraguay, and Argentina; the end of the nineteenth century and the turn of the millennium. Juxtaposing Barton’s experiences in the New Australia movement, and Agustina’s in the Argentine Movement of Unemployed Workers of the 1990s, it examines the fate of idealistic projects past and present. The essay traces representations of Lane’s Paraguayan experiment in fiction, journalism, and history across the last one hundred years. Beginning with the colonists’ own accounts from the 1890s, it moves on to consider texts by Gavin Souter (1968), Michael Wilding (1984), and Anne Whitehead (1990). Lane’s Utopians continue to have a presence in the national imagination, it is argued, because their story offers the culture a means of maintaining and reconfiguring its relationship with the 1890s. Despite the efforts of radical critics since the 1970s, this period remains central to Australian nationalism (Magarey et. al xvii). While Lane’s movement was the local expression of Utopianism – an ideology with international reach – because of its connection with the 1890s, most contemporary representations of it have employed the story as a way of figuring the nation. These texts are fascinated by Lane’s exportation of the ‘Australian Legend’ to South America. The ongoing tradition of popular pilgrimage to Paraguay suggests that some Australians remain attached to the values Lane championed in the 1890s: the institution of mateship, the figure of the ‘Australian type,’ and the language and customs of the nineteenth-century bush. The texts by Souter, Wilding, and Whitehead, meanwhile, have all used this iconic story of Australia’s radical past to engage issues of their own time, from immigration, to the relationship between radicals and the mainstream, to multiculturalism. New Australia has come to resemble a counter-myth for radicals, a narrative used to challenge the assumption that Australia is a pragmatic culture without a strong tradition of idealism.
Keyword William Lane, 1890s, New Australia, Cosme, Utopianism, socialism, Paraguay, Argentina, short stories
Additional Notes Colour: 104,286

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Created: Wed, 13 Oct 2010, 09:02:55 EST by Mr James Halford on behalf of Library - Information Access Service