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“Nineteenth century Australian women novelists delineated life in the outback from a perspective quite different from that of the masculinist pioneer.” Discuss with suitable examples.

 Early attempts at producing literary works were rather gentrified, written in the English style for an English audience. A good example is the work of W. C. Wentworth, author of Australasia, an Ode (1823), which is minor and imitative. During the next few decades Australian writers began to discover at least their subject, if not yet their voice, with the interpretive nature poetry of Charles Harpur (1813–68) and Henry Kendall (1839–82) and with the novels of Henry Kingsley (brother of Charles Kingsley), who wrote about pioneer life. The bush ballad, begun by Adam Lindsay Gordon, flowered in the work of Henry Lawson (1867–1922) and A. B. (Banjo) Paterson (1864–1941), whose Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895) includes the famous song Waltzing Matilda. Convict life was depicted in Henry Savery’s Quintus Servinton (1830), but it was not until almost a century after the first prisoners arrived that they received their due, in Marcus Clarke’s classic account of life in a penal colony, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874).

Less powerful, but true to life in the bush, were the novels of Rolfe Boldrewood (pseud. of Thomas A. Browne) and James Tucker, whose Ralph Rashleigh (1844) was the first book to focus on Australia’s unique combination of prison life, aborigines, and bushrangers. Other important 19th-century novelists were Miles Franklin (1879–1954), whose My Brilliant Career (1901) is often designated the first authentically Australian novel, and diarist-novelist Tom Collins (pseud.

Her letters, selected from a repository of a lifetime of dedicated and energetic correspondence, reveal an exceptional epistolary talent. Not only do they provide a record of the extensive literary and cultural network Franklin established and fostered in that correspondence, which spread throughout Australia and overseas, but they also stand as an important literary document in a mode that feminist criticism has recovered and recognized as having cultural significance as well as importance to both writers and readers. Franklin’s reputation was amplified, too, with the release of the acclaimed 1979 movie production of her first novel. The motion picture, also called My Brilliant Career, was directed by Australian Gillian Armstrong and generated widespread public interest in both the novel and its author.

Franklin’s name has a central and lasting place in Australian literary history through her endowment of Australia’s most prestigious and, until recently, richest national literary prize, the annual Miles Franklin Award, which she envisaged as having a status similar to that of the Pulitzer Prize. She willed her estate for this purpose upon her death, having always lived frugally and often in reduced circumstances, especially in her later adult life, in order to establish and fund such an award. The terms of the prize, “for the novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian life in any of its phases,” have periodically been the subject of public contention, as judging panels struggle with the issue of the relative Australianness of works being judged. The requirements are revealing, however, of Franklin’s ardent nationalism and lifelong support of Australian literature and Australian writers. The first winner of this award, in 1957, was Patrick White with his novel Voss (1957).

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