Quit Erasing History
Primary and High School education subjugated me enough to the erasure of Indigenous history and the realities of colonialism and invasion of the Australian continent. Embarking on University I expected erasure to be reprimanded and for the truth of our history to be taught — and i’ll give some credit to the few classes i’ve taken where this has most definitely been the case.
Approaching my second year of university, I struggled to find an English Literature unit that would appeal to me, but I was interested in Australian Gothic, inspired by previous classes in general Gothicism I sought a course that would explore colonialist literature, the horrific perspectives of the Indigenous, and how white literature damages the Australian literary world today.
I was taken aback when almost none of our major texts were written by Indigenous authors, (albeit one poem from my recollection from an Indigenous author) nor did any explicitly make reference or even acknowledge the existence of Indigenous people on the Australian continent. Instead Australian Gothic concerns itself with how horrible and frightful the environment is, which has issues within itself regarding viewing the Indigenous as flora and fauna. Despite all this, I shook my head at the selection of texts and succumbed to merely critiquing the texts for their erasure.
In a presentation on For The Term Of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, I made some comments about the erasing nature of the novel, why it shouldn’t be celebrated in Australian literature, and looked at it from a post-colonial framework. I was quite satisfied with my efforts, but my tutor didn’t share my enthusiasm. He critiqued my presentation for “missing the point” and suggested I used indigenous issues as a scapegoat from talking about other themes in the novel. (This was blatantly incorrect as I also spoke about sexism, gothic tropes, status, and made explicit reference to the text.) Nevertheless, in “question time” following my presentation, the tutor made zero effort to ask questions relating to the post-colonial perspective I took, and merely asked other relentless questions that held little relevance of interest to me.
Whilst the unit is mostly enjoyable, I remain extremely disappointed in the selection of texts for this unit and remain saddened at the approach taken towards post-colonial perspectives. It hadn’t been brought up in a single class, and when I decided to address it, it seemed to have been ignored. I can only hope, and fight for university courses to address Indigenous issues, particularly in a classroom context that seeks so passionately to masquerade them with colonialist literature.