In his novel A Fringe of Leaves (1976), Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White takes up the famous case of the 1836 shipwreck and subsequent survival on an island of Eliza Fraser, a Scottish woman who managed to return to white colonial society after having spent several weeks among a tribe of Aborigines in Queensland. White uses this story for an investigation of human processes of categorization as tools of the construction of notions of identity and alterity in contexts in which social, racial, and gendered otherness collide in the separateness of various insular spaces. In shaping the character of Ellen Roxburgh as Fraser’s fictional equivalent, he chooses a hybrid figure the liminality and the border-crossings of which lend themselves both to an investigation and a critical questioning of strategies of self-constitution dependent on imaginings of negative others. On a more concrete historical level, White thus questions the ideas of race, class, and gender early Australian colonial society was founded on and raises issues that are still of consequence even in the 21st century.
About the author
Heinz Antor is Professor of English Literatures and Head of the Department of English at the University of Cologne. He studied at Erlangen (Germany) and Oxford (UK) and has taught at the Universities of Würzburg, Düsseldorf, and Bremen as well as at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA). His research interests include postcolonial, inter- and transcultural studies, literary pattern-building, law and literature, and the history of anglophone narrative in Britain, Canada, and Australia. He is editor of the journal Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies. Among his books are The Bloomsbury Group, 1986; Die Narrativik der Angry Young Men, 1989; Text - Culture - Reception. Cross-Cultural Aspects of English Studies, 1992; Der englische Universitätsroman, 1996; Intercultural Encounters - Studies in English Literatures, 1999; English Literatures in International Contexts, 2000; Refractions of Germany in Canadian Literature and Culture, 2003; Refractions of Canada in European Literature and Culture, 2005; Inter- und Transkulturelle Studien, 2006; Fremde Kulturen verstehen – fremde Kulturen lehren: Theorie und Praxis der Vermittlung interkultureller Kompetenz, 2007, and From Interculturalism to Transculturalism: Mediating Encounters in Cosmopolitan Contexts, 2010.
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