AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Patterns of shame in some Australian autobiographies, 1960 to 1995

by Rosamund Dalziell

Institution: Australian National University
Year: 2013
Record ID: 1034046
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10415


This thesis argues that an understanding of the emotion of shame can contribute substantially to the literary interpretation of a broad range of Australian autobiographies published between 1960 and 1995. From a detailed analysis of more than a dozen autobiographical texts, I conclude that shame is also a powerful force within Australian culture, although its presence has been largely unrecognised. The introduction to this thesis explains why an understanding of shame is useful in interpreting autobiographical texts, and discusses the relevance of shame to contemporary Australian autobiographies. Chapter 1 establishes the theoretical foundations for a study of shame in Australian autobiography, drawing on historical and contemporary critical approaches to shame in a variety of academic disciplines. Chapters 2 to 5 analyse a number of Australian autobiographical texts, under the headings of shame and Australian cultural identity, shame and illegitimacy, shame and race, and shame and the Jewish immigrant experience. Chapter 2 discusses the shaming of Australian culture by the myth of British superiority as represented in Kathleen Fitzpatrick's autobiography, Solid Bluestone Foundations: and Other Memories of a Melbourne Girlhood 1908 -1928, with reference also to works by Martin Boyd. Chapter 3 considers three autobiographies concerned with shame and illegitimacy, The Boy Adeodatus: Portrait of a Lucky Young Bastard by Bernard Smith, A Mother's Disgrace by Robert Dessaix, and Daddy We Hardly Knew You by Germaine Greer. The autobiographies by Aboriginal writers in chapter 4 provide the basis for a close examination of the relationship between shame and racism in Australia. The writers discussed in detail are Ruby Langford Ginibi, Sally Morgan, Charles Perkins, Ella Simon, Margaret Tucker and Glenyse Ward. In chapter 5, autobiographies by three Australians of European Jewish descent, Morris Lurie, Amirah Inglis and Andrew Riemer, illustrate the operation of shame in the immigrant experience, with particular insights into the relationship between shame, anti-Semitism and Holocaust survival.