Re-making an ‘old tradition’s magic’: The Irish strain in early Queensland writing
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The themes of cultural dislocation and the struggle to feel 'at home' in a new land figure prominently in Australian literature, but the articulations of these preoccupations by Queensland's Irish writers have been largely forgotten or overlooked. This paper, which spans the period from Separation in 1859 to the middle of the twentieth century, begins by looking at the processes of translation and adjustment in first generation Irish immigrant writers and then considers the Irish strain in the work of some prominent Queensland-born writers of Irish descent. Although Queensland was the Australian colony which attracted the highest rate of migration from Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Irish immigrants were significantly under-represented in literary culture. The Queensland Irish were more integrated, and less active in the nationalist cause, than elsewhere in Australia, and this assimilative, depoliticising tendency is also evident in the work of Queensland writers of Irish birth or descent. The ongoing Irish strain in Queensland literature is attributable largely to second and third generation Irish women writers, who use the glamour of Irishness to redefine the taint of Irish racial inferiority and criminality, and employ Irish faerie mythology as a key component of a modernist literary agenda.
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