Homi K. Bhabha
As someone who identifies as neither one thing nor the other and who feels neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’, I am drawn to Homi K. Bhabha’s formulation of postcolonial criticism, particularly his notion that identity is formed in the ‘interstices’ of culture rather than at its boundaries; that it is created in the in-between spaces where ‘domains of difference’ overlap and are displaced (Bhabha 1-2). I hope, therefore, to explore the idea that (post)colonial outposts like Tasmania act as ‘interstices’ rather than as spaces that give rise to and reinforce ‘parochial polarities’ (Bhabha 4). (Thesis Plan)

I met my Baba early in the university year, when I borrowed a book of his essays. I was trying (and failing) to flesh out my skeletal understanding of postcolonial studies, a field that Bhabha, along with two other luminaries, is credited with creating.

In his book, The Location of Culture, Bhabha takes issue with ‘binary logic’, the mode of thought usually associated with the colonial mindset (and with me). He offers, instead, a different interpretation of the imperial past and present.

The colonial realm, Bhabha argues, does not simply give rise to and reinforce ‘parochial polarities’, as many believe. By acting as an in-between place where back-and-forth movement causes ‘domains of difference’ to overlap, the subjugated space ‘opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity’. (Blog Post)

Hilda Bridges

Roy Bridges

Marcus Clarke [For the Term of His Natural Life]

Now he knew where he’d met the girl before. In a book from his boyhood. A book he’d read and reread in his room in the cottage on his grandparents’ farm, a million miles away, on another island. Sylvia Vickers was the closest he’d come to having a childhood sweetheart. She’d died – or so he’d thought – on the prison island, along with his grandparents. Along with the boy. (Thesis)

Diaspora (British)
Roy and Hilda Bridges were born in Tasmania and yet, as the offspring of emigrants, were ‘British’ in many ways (culturally and artistically, for example). Although local identities did not necessarily ‘contradict or undermine imperial Britishness’ for many settlers (Bridge and Fedorowich 6), the Bridges siblings (Roy in particular) appear to have had difficulty reconciling their two selves, largely, it seems, because their interest in Tasmania’s colonial history and the revulsion they felt for the imperial penal system did not sit easily with their affection for Britain. (Annotated Bibliography)

Late one afternoon, Sylvie tore another page from the typewriter and added it to the small pile on the table, leaning back in her chair. Roy was smoking, peering pensively through the clouds of smoke in the room at the clouds outside.

‘You colonials and your obsession with royalty,’ Sylvie said.

Roy gave a start. ‘Eh?’

‘The book. Barbara and her bits. Sleeping with the monarch. We got over kings and queens centuries ago, when we chopped off the first Charles’ head. You colonials seem to be more English than the English.’

‘We can’t help ourselves,’ Roy said. ‘I was born in little Britain, otherwise known as Tasmania, and when I was sixteen the Duke and Duchess of York paid us a visit. They decided to go sailing on the Derwent. Half of Hobart – me included – trailed after them in ferries, cheering our heads off one minute, shaking them in disbelief the next.’

‘You have a Derwent, too?’

‘Of course. There’s one in every outpost. The same thing happened a few years ago, when the Prince of Wales came over on the royal yacht – a battleship, if you don’t mind – to thank us for saving the Mother Country’s bacon in the war. There was no apology, of course, for getting us into the mess. We almost killed him when the royal train came off the rails. He took it in his stride, of course, winning us over with a little joke. “At larst,” he said, “we have done something that is not in the programme.” We dubbed him the Digger Prince, a man who has never set foot in a trench let alone dug one.’

‘And yet he still finds himself in a hole,’ Sylvie said, with a laugh. ‘He’s too much of a rake to ever really be king. Actually, he’s one of the few crown jewels I like. He’s his own man, at least.’ (Thesis)

Roy and Hilda Bridges appear to have been, or at least to have felt, displaced. They struggled to find a home for themselves, reluctantly settling on the isolated and empty family farm; they felt at odds with their times, too, with the clamour of the city and the growing ugliness of the countryside. They were apparently unable, as well, to find a place in society, to conform to the gender conventions of their day. Moreover, as authors they failed to find a niche in the cultural tradition in which they lived and worked, falling into literary obscurity not long after Roy’s death. (Research Project Proposal, Thesis Plan)

Literary Criticism (Australian, History of)

Bridges considered Melbourne the model Australian city (Conde vii-viii). In 1934, he published One Hundred Years: The Romance of the Victorian People, about which one reviewer observed that “[h]is purpose is not formal history, but a tribute to the people whom chiefly he admires among Australians” (“One Hundred Years” 34). Although Melbourne was founded by ex-convicts (Boyce 244), Bridges did not associate it with servitude, brutality and imprisonment as he did Tasmania. (Exegesis)

Roy beat his head softly on the glass. Boom boom boom. The sound took him back to the house in Melbourne, to the school up the street and its miserable marching band, with its blasted bass drum. Boom boom, boom boom. (Thesis)

I plan to use postcolonial criticism as the methodology for my study, because this theoretical approach not only seems to suit my subject matter, but because I have a deep and abiding interest in Australia’s (post)colonial relationship with Britain (it being, I believe, the key to me unlocking my past and the past of my country) … I hope, therefore, to explore the idea that (post)colonial outposts like Tasmania act as ‘interstices’ rather than as spaces that give rise to and reinforce ‘parochial polarities’ (Bhabha 4). (Thesis Plan)

Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land)

Van Diemen’s Land (see Tasmania)

Woods [Farm]
Several miles removed from the small township of Sorell, Woods was something of a backwater. The house itself was small and primitive, lacking electricity and a telephone (Bridges, H, Wood’s Farm 105; 116-118), and the Bridges never owned a car (Giordano and Norman 122). Hilda recalled how friends “asked us for how long we thought to put up with – this!” (Wood’s Farm 105) But put up with it Bridges did until his death, enduring the isolation with the help of books and letters. (Exegesis)