Writing the nation : Patrick White and the indigene
Place of Publication
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts
The time for new approaches to White's work is overdue. Central to the present study are Edward Said's ideas about the role of the intellectual (and the writer) - of speaking "truth to power," and also the importance of tracing the "affiliations" of a text and its embeddedness in the world. This approach is not incompatible with Jung's theory of the 'great' artist and his capacity to answer the deep-seated psychic needs of his people. White's work has contributed in many different ways to the writing of the nation. The spiritual needs of a young nation such as Australia must also comprehend its continual urge towards self-definition. Explored here is one important aspect of that challenge: white Australia's dealings with the indigenous people of the land, tracing the significance of the Aboriginal presence in three texts selected from the oeuvre of Patrick White: Voss (1957), Riders in the Chariot (1961), and A Fringe of Leaves (1976). Each of these texts interrogates European culture's denigration of the non-European Other as embedded in the discourse of orientalism. One central merit of White's commanding perspective is the constant close attention he pays to European hubris and to the paramount autonomy of indigenous culture. There is evidence even of a project which can be articulated as a search for the possibility of white indigeneity, the potential for the white settler's belonging within the land as does the indigene.