'I Don't Wanna Live in This Place': The 'Australian Cultural Cringe' in Subtopia and The River Ophelia

Jay Daniel Thompson

Abstract


This article explores representations of the ‘Australian cultural cringe’ in A.L. McCann’s Subtopia (2005) and Justine Ettler’s The River Ophelia (1995). The protagonists of these novels express the kind of anti-Australian sentiments that were described by A.A. Phillips in his famous 1950 essay. The antipathy these protagonists feel towards Australia manifests itself in various forms of abjection.

I argue that the most striking aspect of these novels is the fact they have been published at a historical moment in which the whole notion of an ‘Australian cultural cringe’ seems to have become obsolete. My readings of these texts are energised by a number of questions. These include, do Subtopia and The River Ophelia uncritically portray Australia as crude and parochial? Or is something altogether more complex happening in these novels? What do these novels say about the relationship between national identity, place and the body?

In pursuing the above questions, I will bring to light important and provocative aspects of these two texts that have been overlooked or misread by critics.

Keywords


Contemporary Australian literature; national identity; corporeality; dystopianism in literature

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