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The journal Walkabout and outback Australia 1930s-1950s: A romantic rapprochement with the landscape in the face of modernity

Fetherstonhaugh, Timothy John (2002) The journal Walkabout and outback Australia 1930s-1950s: A romantic rapprochement with the landscape in the face of modernity. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis analyses the popular Australian journal Walkabout with emphasis on the 1930s and 1940s. Walkabout's principal subject was the Australian hinterland, in particular its outback. This thesis examines the nature of Walkabout's romantic representation of the outback landscape and its people, and the implications such representation had for configuring the nation.

Walkabout was a unique journal in the interwar period for its blend of educational and entertaining articles that celebrated the outback landscape to reveal to Australians, not the alienating exoticism of a foreign land, but the integral centrality of the landscape in defining the identity of a nation and its people. This study reveals a hitherto unexplored dimension of romanticism in Australian interwar cultural expression which, through the travel writing and natural history essay, provided the dominant means by which Walkabout made the outback landscape meaningful to Australians. This romantic discourse was marked by the search for an arcadian rapprochement of Australian nature and culture as a foundation for articulating a national identity through the tenets of romanticism. In projecting the perceived organic verities of outback nature onto an Australian people the romantic vision laid claim to a relatively unknown landscape free of association with other national visions, which provided a powerful means of ‘naturalising’ an Australian identity.

This thesis argues that Walkabout's exploration of the outback landscape was a romantic impulse set against a rapidly modernising Australia and its utilitarian expression. Articles of travel writing constructed the outback landscape and people as an organic unity in which the natural qualities of the landscape determined the character of the ‘real’ Australian and ‘real’ Australia to a degree not seen in previous representations of the relationship between Australians and other landscapes. After World War II, Walkabout's romanticism declined in lieu of a growing utilitarianism that was revealed through an increasing scientific approach to understanding the outback. The conditions of modernity eroded the outback’s romantic isolation from the modem world and the landscape was viewed as resource for a modem nation rather than as romantic object definitive of a people and nation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
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Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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