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Australia Infelix: Making history in an unsettled country
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posted on 14.11.2019by Helen Wendy Doyle
Drawing on the term 'Australian Felix', coined by Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836, this thesis traces its obverse, a disturbing undertone in the history of Victoria that could be called 'Australia Infelix'. It draws on contemporary documentary records, including settler narratives and reminiscences, travel-writing and local histories, to argue that European settlers' imaginings and perceptions of Victoria from the period of the 1830s to the 1930s, including its indigenous culture and landscape, reveal a preoccupation, not only about placemaking, but also with displacement and dislocation. Several factors contributed to this sense of displacement: the immigrant experience, the colonial context, and the influence of inherited models for understanding the physical landscape, principally Romanticism. I show that place and history were intimately connected in the development of ideas about identity and belonging, and that the interdependence of these two notions invited feelings of melancholy, ruin and loss, which were also key themes of contemporary European Romanticism.[…]