Marginal Genre/Marginal Gender: Australian Women Writers and the Short Story


  • Annalisa Pes



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.  


Adelaide, Debra, ed. A Bright and Fiery Troop: Australian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century. Ringwood: Penguin, 1988.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in PostColonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 1989.

Awadalla, Maggie, and Paul March-Russell, eds. The Postcolonial Short Story: Contemporary Essays. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Bardolph, Jaqueline. Telling Stories: Postcolonial Short Fiction in English. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001.

Barnard, Marjorie. The Persimmon Tree and Other Stories. London: Virago, 1985.

Barrett, Susan. “No Place for a Woman? Barbara Baynton’s Bush Studies.” Journal of the Short Story in English 40 (2003): 89-92.

Baynton, Barbara. Bush Studies. 1902. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1993.

Beachcroft, Thomas Owen. The Modest Art: A Survey of the Short Story in English. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Bonheim, Helmut. The Narrative Modes: Techniques of the Short Story. Cambridge: Brewer, 1982.

Cambridge, Ada. At Midnight and Other Stories. London: Ward Lock, 1897.

Chialant, Maria Teresa, and Marina Lops, eds. Time and the Short Story. Bern: Peter Lang, 2012.

Dalziell, Tania. Settler Romances and the Australian Girl. Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2004.

Dvorak, Marta, and William Herbert New, eds. Tropes and Territories: Short Fiction, Postcolonial Readings, Canadian Writings in Context. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007.

Eagleton, Mary. “Gender and Genre.” Re-reading the Short Story. Ed. Clare Hanson. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1989. 55-68.

Edwards, Ron. The Australian Yarn. The Definitive Collection. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1996.

Gajer, Ewa. Australian Women Short Story Writers: A Selective Bibliography. Armidale NSW: Centre for Australian Language and Literature Studies, The University of New England, 1995.

Gray, Richard. “Writing Southern Cultures.” A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American South. Eds. Richard Gray and Owen Robinson. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 3-26.

Grenville, Kate. Bearded Ladies. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1987.

Hanson, Clare, ed. Short Stories and Short Fictions, 1880-1980. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1984.

Hanson, Clare, ed. Re-reading the Short Story. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1989.

Hazzard, Shirley. “Authors’ Statements. The Contemporary Australian Short Story - Special Issue.” Australian Literary Studies 10.2 (1981): 204-208.

Head, Dominic. The Modernist Short Story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Hergenhan, Laurie. “’Shafts into Our Fundamental Animalism’: Barbara Baynton’s Use of Naturalism in Bush Studies.” Australian Literary Studies 17.3 (1996): 211-221.

Hunter, Adrian. The Cambridge Introduction to the Short Story in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Lever, Susan. “Joseph Furphy and the Authoresses.” Real Relations. Australian Fiction, Realism, Feminism and Form. Sydney: Halstead Press, 2000. 33-40.

Lindsay, Jack. “Barbara Baynton: A Master of Naturalism.” Decay and Renewal: Critical Essays on Twentieth Century Writing. Sydney: Wild and Woolley, 1976. 262-266.

May, Charles, ed. Short Story Theories. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976.

May, Charles, ed. The New Short Story Theories. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1994.

McPherson, Bernice. “A Colonial Feminine Ideal: Femininity and Representation.” Journal of Australian Studies 42 (1994): 5-17.

Modjeska, Drusilla. Exiles at Home: Australian Women Writers 1925-1945. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1981.

Moi, Toril. “Feminist Literary Criticism.” Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction. Eds. Anne Jefferson and David Robey. London: Batsford, 1986. 204-221.

Moore, Rosemary. “’Squeaker’s Mate’: A Bushwoman’s Tale.” Australian Feminist Studies 3 (1986): 27-44.

O’Connor, Frank. “The Lonely Voice.” 1963. Short Story Theories. Ed. Charles May. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976. 83-93.

Phillips, A.A. “Barbara Baynton and the Dissidence of the Nineties.” Overland 22 (1961): 15-20.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “Review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales.” 1842. Edgar Allan Poe: Essays and Reviews. Ed. Gary Richard Thompson. New York: Library of America, 1984. 569-577.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Philosophy of Composition.” 1846. Edgar Allan Poe: Essays and Reviews. Ed. G.R. Thompson. New York: Library of America, 1984. 13-25.

Praed, Rosa. “Aurea.” 1907. Her Selection: Writings by Nineteenth Century Australian Women. Ed. Lynne Spender. Ringwood: Penguin, 1988. 228-239.

Praed, Rosa. “The Bushman’s Love Story.” 1909. From the Verandah: Stories of Love and Landscape by Nineteenth Century Australian Women. Ed. Fiona Giles. Ringwood: Penguin, 1987. 202-219.

Pratt, Mary Louise. “The Short Story: The Long and the Short of It.” Poetics 10 (1981): 175-194.

Prichard, Katharine Susannah. Kiss on the Lips and Other Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 1932.

Reid, Ian. The Short Story. London: Methuen, 1977.

Richardson, Henry Handel. The End of a Childhood and Other Stories. London: Heinemann, 1934.

Schaffer, Kay. Women and the Bush: Forces of Desire in the Australian Cultural Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Shaw, Valerie. The Short Story. London: Longman, 1983.

Spender, Dale. Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers. London: Pandora Press, 1987.

Stephens, A.G. “Review of Bush Studies.” 1902. A.G. Stephens: His Life and Work. Ed. Vance Palmer. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1941. 112-113.

Stummer, Peter O., ed. The Story Must Be Told: Short Narrative Prose in the New English Literatures. Wurzburg: Konigshausen and Neumann, 1986.

Webby, Elizabeth. “Barbara Baynton’s Revisions to ‘Squeaker’s Mate’.” Southerly 44 (1984): 455-468.






Articles (general section) - British and Postcolonial literatures in English