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Women Versed in Myth: Essays on Modern Poets pp. 106-113



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200525 Literary Theory

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This paper is grounded in the axiom, that if narrative tells the clearest truth about the conscious layers of humanity and the truth a culture holds at a particular time, then it is poetry that provides the clearest revelation of the unconscious lies that a culture clings to as it changes. This is no more evident than in the poetry of the Australian poet, Chris Mansell, and in particular her poems, Where Edges Are and The Good Soldier. Her poetry not only reflects the crisis of national identity Australia is currently embroiled in as it “struggles to free itself from residual colonial ideologies,” (Huggan 2007:ix), but the role of woman in this societal shift and their place in the ‘landscape myth’ of the ‘lucky country’. Up until recently the Australian national myth has at its core a narrative dominated by the laconic outback male ‘cattle drover’, who is able to survive in the desert landscape of the outback through sheer determination and subduing the environment and native inhabitants. His wife also surfaces in this mythic schema as a quiet, intelligent, bored and subjugated partner. However, this ‘outback survival narrative’ is being eroded as Australians begin to contemplate their national identity. This national questioning is reflected in poetry and literature, in which there is a subtextual metaphoric shift from ‘desert isolation’ to a proxemics myth related to the sea. Mansell’s poetry is arguably one of the clearest socio-psychological ‘places of mythic voice’ whereby the actual pain of female liminality as ‘archetypal echo’ in the Australian myth is morphing from out of a ‘belly of the whale’ experience’, into a driving force whereby new “myths, metaphors, symbols, rituals and philosophic systems” (Deardorff 2004:13) are being generated. Through Mansell’s poetry and mythic imagery, a lie is changing into a potential for living.


From Women Versed in Myth: Essays on Modern Poets © 2016 Edited by Colleen S. Harris and Valerie Estelle Frankel by permission of McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640.

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