In the Realm of the Imagined: Representation and Identity in Australasian Illustrated Junior Fiction 1890-1920
This thesis inquires into how Australasian illustrated junior fiction from 1890-1920 employed the realm of the imagined to negotiate the representation of identity. It examines the mediation of colonialism and emergent nationalisms within the field of study, visual culture. It focuses on the collision of cultures, the transformation of the unfamiliar into the familiar and evaluates the roles of stereotype and gender. The inquiry has been prompted by a number of factors, all of which remain ongoing and salient features in shaping cultural endeavour in New Zealand and Australia. These relate to post-colonial issues of otherness as well as the legacy of socio-political events and mythologies contemporary to the period. Along with 'dying race' and masculine mythologies these constitute Federation, suffrage, exclusionist policy and war. Critical commentary has cogently debated their thematic articulation in Australasian junior fiction as a foundational vehicle for national identity. With a few exceptions it has failed to address this genre from the juncture of image and text, print and production and cultural endeavour. Junior fiction is not only the product of literary endeavour, it is the creation of illustration and design praxis. By examining this interface, the thesis addresses the unrealised needs of students and scholars of visual communication design, illustration and visual culture for whom sociocultural issues: indigeneity, gender and ethnicity are paramount. The research is based on a comparative analysis of New Zealand and Australian illustrated junior fiction. The methodologies of formal and semiotic analyses traditionally employed in the analysis of visual artefacts were applied to unpacking the primary visual material. The illustrations sourced from Australasian children's literature were analysed alongside selected material from cultural vernacular. Two informal interviews were conducted with descendents of New Zealand image-makers. To supplement visual methodologies, graphical discourse was designed as a synthesizing procedure and implemented in the discussion of cultural endeavour and image and text. The results suggest that in addition to the formative events impacting the colonies, postcolonial issues of 'otherness' are key factors in differentiating the colonies from their point of origin and one from the other. Analysis of the findings reveals assimilation, acculturation and socio-cultural identities to be central to the representation of identity. In addition findings reveal sociocultural practices and relationships to be critical in informing how image and text were composed and integrated. The critical conceptualization of visual culture as a field of study, views it to be a place for the critique of the 'master narratives of imperialism and nationalism' (Bal 2003, 22). The research findings have important implications for the historical account of cultural endeavour and disciplinary praxis. The first of these conclusions is that junior fiction contributes significantly to the ongoing construction of nationalist mythologies. The second is that a practitioner-based perspective extends the critical reading into the representation of discourses associated with nationalism. The third is that graphical discourse provides a model to examining historical and contemporary narratives in the production of image and text.