A novel: Bloodlines and exegesis: In the blood: mothering and othering
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Arts and Humanities
Dr Donna Mazza
Associate Professor Richard Rossiter
This thesis includes a literary fiction novel, Bloodlines, and an exegesis titled In the Blood: Mothering and Othering.
Bloodlines is a layered novel with shifting settings, times and voices. It centres around thirtyone- year-old Beth who is struggling with the guilt of calling off her wedding and the belief this decision caused her fiancé to have a devastating accident. She flees to an island in Papua New Guinea (PNG), staying with her dad’s cousin who runs a mission school, and is quickly immersed in island life in all its wonder, beauty and brutality. Friendships with local women, unexpected romance and a malaria scare conspire to make Beth confront the memories that imprison her, and she finally makes peace with her past. But the island simmers with sorcery, religious fervour and belligerent ex-pats, and when violence spills into her own backyard, Beth reaches a defining moment and chooses where she really belongs: with her family.
Interwoven with Beth’s narrative is the story of her parents’ love for each other decades earlier. Clem and Rose’s passionate, tender union is, however, beset with tragedy: Rose dies suddenly and a grieving Clem must raise Beth, their young daughter, alone. Years later, when Beth travels to PNG, Clem reminisces about her childhood and longs for her return.
Bloodlines is about family and love, cultural difference and belonging, and although it is not autobiographical it is inspired by lived experience. The exegesis, In the Blood: Mothering and Othering, is an exercise in reflexivity, demonstrating how creativity is influenced by memory, connection to place, and personal experience. It examines two challenging experiences which informed the setting, characters and plot of Bloodlines. Chapter One explores how becoming a first time mother shaped both content and writing practice, drawing parallels with other contemporary Australian author-mothers including Cate Kennedy and Nikki Gemmell. It also frames the work as an act of catharsis. Chapter Two tackles the complexities of whiteness. It examines the PNG thread of the novel in terms of post-colonial discourse with particular reference to ‘white saviour complex’ and the volunteer tourist as a modern day missionary. The unavoidable echoes of colonialism given Australia’s historical relationship with PNG are highlighted. The second part of this chapter details specific strategies implemented to ease the writer’s anxiety about depicting racial difference, and connections are made to other Australian authors who have written about PNG, most notably Randolph Stow, Trevor Shearston and Drusilla Modjeska.
Both the novel and exegesis are a manifestation of significant, somewhat difficult life experiences. If we accept that it is in our vulnerability and our interactions with other people (whether they be a tiny child or the archetypal black Other) that we know ourselves more fully, then this journey of self-discovery is deepened when we transform our experiences through writing – whether it be creative or theoretical.
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Sinclair, N. M. (2017). A novel: Bloodlines and exegesis: In the blood: mothering and othering. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1961
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