Distant Context, Local Colour: Australian ‘Post September 11’ Fiction


  • Jen Webb University of Canberra


Australian literature, September 11, literature of emergency, Andrew McGahan, Richard Flanagan


Australian fiction is, arguably, as diverse as the fiction of any other culture or era. But in a globalised world, though the stories we tell may remain inflected by the local context, they will necessarily be informed by transnational relations and geopolitical events. Like writers in the USA, UK, Afghanistan and elsewhere, some Australian novelists have taken arms against a sea of troubles, and produced work that directly and consciously engages that new genre, the post September 11 novel. Only a small number of Australian novels have been published in this genre – perhaps inevitably, given our distance from the scene – and they can be read as relying on the familiar features of the thriller, the detective, or the citygrrl genres that readers find attractive. However, I will suggest that they do more than this. In a reading of Andrew McGahan’s Underground, and Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist, I will discuss the ways in which a very local ‘accent’ is coloured by broader forces, and what contributions we can offer, here at the foot of the world, to the ongoing conflicts and human rights abuses in the hemisphere above us.

Author Biography

Jen Webb, University of Canberra

Jen Webb is Professor of Creative Practice, and Associate Dean, Research in the Faculty of Arts and Design. Jen is editor (with Nigel Krauth) of TEXT: journal of writing and writing courses, and (with Tony Schirato) of the Sage book series, Understanding Contemporary Culture.