Colonising time, recollecting place: Steven Carroll's reinvention of suburbia


  • Brigid Rooney


literary suburbia, Steven Carroll


Suburbia is a familiar topos in Australian fiction. Its address to colonisation is mostly oblique, yielded through its focus on the inauthenticity and restlessness of a settler modernity typically sourced in the white Anglo culture of pre 1970s decades. Yet the actual suburbs of postwar Australia are multiplicitous and shifting, always in tension with the imagined terrain of fictional suburbia. My paper explores literary suburbs as constituted by a complex set of orientations towards the real and the imagined. It reads the ways that Steven Carroll’s fictional suburbia indexes real world localities, while simultaneously serving as locus for reinvention of the novel in Australia, through forms of interior consciousness and temporality affiliated with European models of literary modernism. In Spirit of Progress (2011), Carroll's narrative engages with classic Anglo-Australian suburbia as a representational field, working with and against the real of history, even as it mines the seam of suburbia as a site of both colonization and forgetting, and of longing and return.

Author Biography

Brigid Rooney

Brigid Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in the Australian Literature Program at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Literary Activists: Writer-Intellectuals and Australian Public Life (2009) and her current research explores the nexus of the real and the imagined in fictions of suburbia.