Book Series Making the Middle Ages, vol. 10

Old Songs in the Timeless Land: Medievalism in Australian Literature 1840-1910

Louise D'Arcens

  • Pages: 216 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2011

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53566-1
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-57238-3
  • E-book
  • Available


This volume is the first close examination of the rich and diverse body of medievalist texts produced in late colonial and early Federal (ie post-1901) Australia. It examines the many ways in which early Australian novelists, poets, and dramatists drew on the motifs, events, and personages of the medieval past, and places particular emphasis on how they used the European past to illuminate their sense of the Australian present. Broadly stated, the book argues that a study of early Australian medievalist literature and theatre uncovers a rich and revealing drama in which the forces of cultural nostalgia and cultural amnesia sometimes contended against one another, and sometimes harmonised, to produce a unique and distinctive corpus. The book significantly extends current knowledge about nineteenth-century literary and theatrical medievalism by offering an exploration of how medievalist discourses and idioms came to be taken up within a major, but as yet under-examined, branch of Anglophone literature. It aims also to broaden the cultural ambit of nineteenth-century medievalism by offering analyses of popular and ephemeral instances alongside more ‘serious’ medievalist texts. The study balances an interest in how this medievalism responded to local conditions with an interest in its international complexion, examining how Australian medievalist novels, poems, and plays, participated in imperial and transpacific intellectual and entertainment circuits.  While the emphasis of the volume is on close, historically-contextualising interpretations of texts, it has woven through its arguments a series of meditations on such theoretical matters as how we determine the boundaries of medievalism, how we might develop an account of colonial medievalism as non-derivative, whether medievalist discourses are equally amenable across gender, class, and ideological lines, and how the premodern past is evoked as a means for formulating the present and the future.

Louise D’Arcens is an Associate Professor in the English Literatures Program. Her two main current research areas are medievalism and medieval women’s writing.


List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: Warring Elements? Medievalism and Australian Identity in Nineteenth-Century Australian Literature

Chapter 1: Life on the Murrumbidgee: Anglo-Saxonism in the Work of Rolf Boldrewood and Joseph Furphy

Chapter 2: ‘Backwards and Forwards in the Strangest Way’: Medievalism, Modernity, and ‘the Australian Girl’ in Novels by Australian Women

Chapter 3: Bush Idylls and Galloping Romances: Medievalism in the Poetry of Adam Lindsay Gordon

Chapter 4: The Drivel of our Fathers: Medievalism in Popular Australian Poetry

Chapter 5: The Round Table and Other Furniture: Medievalism on the Colonial Australian Stage