The Transvestite Adventure: Reading the Colonial Grotesque



colonial fiction, transvestism, grotesque


This reading of transvestic performance in Australian fiction is in dialogue with Robert Dixon’s 1995 monograph Writing the Colonial Adventure: Race, Gender and Nation in Anglo-Australian Popular Fiction, 1875-1914. It is informed by the frameworks Dixon developed in his analysis of the relationship between literature and culture, specifically the ways in which he relates the occult effects of the literary imaginary and the political unconscious to historical context and their implication in the formation of Australia’s particular colonialism. More specifically still, the argument regarding colonial transvestism engages directly with Dixon’s deployment of Peter Stallybrass and Allon White’s formulation of the ‘grotesque’ and its application to the Australian colonial context. The essay revisits Dixon’s reading of the Australian grotesque as a critical optic for reading Australian colonial narratives of female to male cross-dressing to argue that the transvestite figures in colonial narratives enact performances of what Stallybrass and White schematise as the two orders of the grotesque, which are enacted in the identity formation of the collective


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