Title

Voices From a Reliquary

Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Language and Literature

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Richard Rossiter

Abstract

"Voices from a Reliquary" is a series of six short stories drawn from genealogical research. The stories explore historical events and issues which affected the family. Two main thematical bases of the stories are the power of the historical relic and the life transforming effect of journeys. Major theoretical issues considered within the work are the relationship between historical-biographical narrative and the cognitive processes of memory. My narrative style seeks to imitate these cognitive processes, mainly through the use of what Bakhtin termed “polyphonic" narrative. Research for the stories was gathered from letters and interviews with surviving family members. Photographs, personal documents and belongings were used to support the information. Additional research was gathered from Western Australian state Archives and my own journeys to the locations involved.

"The Lillie Match Girl" deals with the mystery surrounding the origins of my own great grandmother. Her life has become a family legend, almost folklore and the traditional tale is used as a vehicle to explore the enigma of the orphaned great grandmother. "The Reliquary" and "The Red Cat and the Postman" deal with the difficulties faced by Italian people immigrating into Australia and the subsequent assimilation and dilution of tradition. "Holyoake, 1961" pieces together anecdotes to reconstruct the family's experience during the 1961 bushfires which destroyed Dwellingup and many small towns in the area. This piece uses research gathered from newspapers und reference material in the Stale Archives. All three of these stories involved visits to the sites and interviews. Relics used within the stories are full of power and symbolism and are given meaning beyond their material existence because of their links to previous generations, homes and homeland. "'The Movement of a Body Over Earth" was inspired by a reading of Shelley's poem ''To A Skylark". This story deals with a boy’s inherent wanderlust and the childhood journeys he makes to satisfy his desire for movement. It is a “rites of passage'' story. The restoration project acts as a catalyst for the fulfilment of his ultimate dream of freedom and movement through travelling around the world. "A Face Around the Edges" reconstructs the life of a young man through the point of view of his older cousin. She sees his happy childhood and then, after a long absence, she sees him as a young man suffering from mental illness who eventually suicides. Additional research into Electric shock Treatment during the 1950s and 1960s is used to add a harshly real edge to the story.

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