Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of International, Community and Cultural Studies

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

Abstract

The major part of this thesis, In the Space Behind His Eyes, is a biography of Western Australian author, Donald Robert Stuart (1913-1983), a colourful life story woven around accepted and persistent myths found in the Australian psyche. In his childhood, Donald Stuart listened to stories about his Scottish immigrant grandfather finding gold on the Victorian fields and his father's part in the 1891 Queensland Shearers strike. His poverty-stricken, but peaceful, upbringing in suburban Perth, Western Australia, was overtaken by the 1930s Depression and, as a rebellious fourteen-year old, he left home and took to the road. In the next decade or so, as he adopted the north-west outback life, he was exposed further to Australia's traditional yarns and philosophies. He emerged from this period as the outrageous ‘Scorp’ Stuart, who drank too much and took advantage of the freedoms on offer. At the start of World War II, Scorp volunteered for the 2nd AlF. He served in the Middle East and somehow survived three-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of the Japanese, including a time on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway. On his return to Australia, he began to tread the writer's path, supplementing his memories with renewed visits to the outback of his youth and working on yet another railway. Encouraged by his sister and her friends, supported by two of his wives and recognised by the Western Australian writh1g community, Donald R. Stuart played the role of noted author, a construct only possible because of Scorp Stuart's adventures. Calling on these experiences, in eleven novels and many short stories, he set down his record of a particular Australian life. The varying facets of his complex character come together in his writing, notably through his deep love of the land and in his sympathetic examination of the north-west Aborigines' position since white settlement. This biography of a writer sets out to trace the life of Donald Stuart, examine the disparity between Stuart the bushman and Stuart the noted author, and to shed light on the man behind the writing. In the essay following In the Space Behind His Eyes, I explore the biographical form, consider directions the genre has taken in recent years, discuss aspects of biography generally and support choices made in the writing of this biography.

LCSH Subject Headings

Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences - Dissertations

Biography as a literary form

Dissertations

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