Marginal Genre/Marginal Gender: Australian Women Writers and the Short Story
The article examines the narrative techniques and problematic concerns in some representative short stories by XIX and XX century Australian women writers (i.e., Ada Cambridge, Rosa Praed, Barbara Baynton, H.H. Richardson, K.S. Prichard, Marjorie Barnard, and Kate Grenville). The aim of the article is to give evidence of a distinctively female literary tradition of the short story in Australia that has asserted itself in a male-dominated literary context, and that in the meantime has contributed to the development of the genre and to the making of the Australian literary canon. The article begins by drawing a parallel between the non-hegemonic, allegedly ‘minor’ literary status of the short story and the marginal, under-estimated position (at least for a long time) of Australian women writers in a patriarchal society. In this light, the article is meant to prove that women’s short stories can be considered as a form of feminine colonial/postcolonial resistance to imperial/patriarchal dispensations, not only because they mine masculine ascendancy, but also as they rethink gender identity. Australian women’s stories, indeed, often explore new possibilities for ‘femaleness’, that take distance both from the model defined by the metropolitan centre (i.e. deriving from the moral, social and aesthetic values of Victorian England) and from the dominant patriarchal ideology of the Australian colony, and in this way they manage to elude and subvert institutional power.
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