Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jan Ryan

Abstract

Where does an Englishman hide his money?' 'I don't know. Where does an Englishman hide his money?' 'Under the soap'. This thesis interrogates representations of ‘Englishness’and by extension, English migrants, in a variety of Australian cultural texts, including film, television, newspapers and academic publication s. Underlying this investigation are two major research questions: What are the factors informing the ambivalent place accorded 'Englishness' in Australian cultural texts? and What can this form of investigation tell us about Australian culture and associated national myths? I have attempted to reinterpret these national myths through the texts/ narratives of Englishness and class. One of my aims was to force the violence of politics and ideology back into the seemingly natural binary opposition of Australia / England (otherwise known as the Aussies and the poms), exploring the ramifications upon Australian nationalist myths. Due to my emphasis here on discourse itself, how it constructs and shapes national identities for example, I have elected to incorporate textual devices designed to disrupt and interrupt the text. These interruptions include passages from English migrant interviews and song lyrics for example. It is anticipated that these disruptions constantly remind, to paraphrase Fredric Jameson, that history is always perforated: 'History with holes' (1990, 130). I argue that it is through these cracks in the screen that the conservative underbelly of Australian nationalist narratives becomes increasingly visible. I have endeavoured to reveal to what extent 'Englishness' continues to function as an empty signifier, where often opposing stereotypes flourish. For example, while Englishness in Australian cultural forms was at times linked with servility, deference and a rigid class system, it was also linked with militancy and political activism in the form of the troublesome pommie shop steward. In chapter one I suggest where these un-deconstructed ‘types’ emanated from, contextualising my theory through the languages of class, going on to suggest why and how these stereotypes have remained so cogent. The cogency of these representations is revealed through the chapters on film, television, newspapers and academic publications. Finally, I argue for a complete reassessment of how the signifier ‘Englishness’ is functioning, both ideologically and politically, in Australian nationalist narratives.

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