The condition of recognition: Gothic intimations in Andrew McGahan's The White Earth
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This article discusses the evocation of the Gothic as a narrative interrogation of the intersections between place, identity and power in Andrew McGahan's The White Earth (2004). The novel deploys common techniques of Gothic literary fiction to create a sense of disassociation from the grip of a European colonial sensibility. It achieves this in various ways, including by representing its central architectural figure of colonial dominance, Kuran House, as an emblem of aristocratic pastoral decline, then by invoking intimations of an ancient supernatural presence which intercedes in the linear descent of colonial possession and, ultimately, by providing a rational explanation for the novel's events. The White Earth further demonstrates the inherently adaptive qualities of Gothic narrative technique as a means of confronting the limits to white belonging in post-colonial Australia by referencing a key historical moment, the 1992 Mabo judgment, which rejected the concept of terra nullius and recognised native title under Australian common law. At once discursive and performative, the sustained way in which the work employs the tropic power of Gothic anxiety serves to reveal the uncertain terms in which its characters negotiate what it means to be Australian, more than 200 years after colonial invasion.
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Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)