A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Chudy, T, Cook, N & Costello, M 2010, 'A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia', in C Cole, M Freiman & DL Brien (eds), Strange bedfellows or perfect partners papers: the refereed proceedings of the 15th conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, Melbourne, Vic., 25-27 November, Australian Association of Writing Programs. ISBN: 9780980757330

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Peer Reviewed



In the excess of subtropical regional Australia, the emergence of the gothic is twofold. One is subjective and affects a lament through the articulation of a gothic voice, and the other is specific to an uncanny relationship with place. The gothic represents the indeterminacy caused by unresolved loss, commonly known as a state of mourning. Jacques Derrida (2001) describes mourning as ‘that of an interiorization (an idealized incorporation, introspection, consumption) of the other [who] ... having passed away, leaves in us only images’ (159). Noir, like the gothic, has a strong sense of predetermination, a blurring of the line between past, present and future, and of unease and dislocation. This collaborative paper uses our fictional works to make an intervention into Australian subtropical regional gothic at a time of global risk and uncertainty. In the expression of both excess and containment, and the familial, romantic and traumatic, the language, or voice, of our fiction writing is informed by our critical reading of allied texts. The trauma that loss evokes is embedded in gothic/noir narratives such as Rosa Campbell Praed’s (1891/2007) ‘The bunyip’ and Peter Temple’s (2005) The broken shore. Particularly in Australian gothic fiction, it is not only the concrete images of human settlement that are haunted but the landscape itself projects this ‘hauntedness’. Climate change and environmental degradation, like the haunted house and the monstrous, act as gothic tropes. Nature is written as strange. Turcotte (1998) says that the gothic appeals because of its ability to articulate tensions and problems, noting that the ‘local variant’ of the gothic is mixed with the romantic, and that as a mode the gothic is ‘at its most exciting when least obeyed’ (12, 17, 19). So the gothic recognises a specific, and problematic, cultural and historical context where there is a struggle between the excesses of the ‘landscape’ and the containment of ‘settlement’.