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Type: Theses
Title: “Horatio Dawn” and “Invisibly somewhere between the two clauses”
Author: Errington, Jeffrey James
Issue Date: 2017
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: “Horatio Dawn” is a novel set in the late seventeenth century and draws on the figure of the pirate, scientist and explorer William Dampier and his “discovery” of Australia. This imaginary work examines the meeting of British people in the Enlightenment period with Aboriginal people and, in doing so, dramatises the complexities of first contact and its after-effects in modern Australia. The direct influence of Dampier on Australian colonisation was real. Adrian Mitchell notes that Dampier’s view of Australia as a land of lack (as a place that needed to be invested with labour, farmed, built upon and changed) “influenced the attitudes of Joseph Banks, Matthew Flinders and the early European settlers a century later; and over the years [Dampier’s] reservations found their way into school texts and informed the attitudes of generations [in Australia]” (ix). This view of the Australian land as needing to be developed resulted in both violence towards Aboriginal people and, as Henry Reynolds argues, denial of that violence around the end of the nineteenth century, as Australia moved towards federation (60). By 1962 this had, according to Stanner, become a “cult of forgetfulness practiced on a national scale” (189). “Horatio Dawn” starts with a pirate named Cutstone washing up on the shore of the protagonist Horatio Dawn’s farm. Cutstone, while recovering, shares stories about exotic places and mentions the great Captain William Dampier. After Cutstone departs, Dawn becomes sick with plague and subsequently experiences visions. He starts to lose his mind as he drifts from his family’s farm in the north of England towards London. He undergoes various picaresque adventures on the road. In London he meets a strange man named Joram who wears a plague doctor’s mask. Eventually Dawn finds work as a clerk at the archives of the East India Trading Company. The Company organises for Dampier’s release from jail in order to lead a voyage to New Holland. Once they depart for the new land, the narrative fragments. They capture a second ship that Joram decides to captain. Dampier slowly goes insane as he comes to identify with Jeronimus, the psychopathic murderer who led the brutal Batavia mutiny. During a wild storm, lightning strikes Dampier and he becomes incoherent. The crew is planning a mutiny when land appears and Dampier, Dawn and Samantha are put ashore. When his ship arrives, Joram starts to hunt all three. Dampier dies while starting a large bush fire. Eventually they make it back to London for a fateful return to the Royal Society’s headquarters and the archive. Dawn is captured, given a mock trial and executed. A final fragmented section presents the monster of William Dampier as he emerges from the grave and travels across the continent to arrive at Sydney and witness the foundation of the settlement. The accompanying exegesis starts with a general introduction to William Dampier, featuring major events in his life. I examine traditional Dampier scholarship and biographies to see how he is consistently presented in the heroic mode as an enlightened man of reason. I consider his effect on history and critique his first book, A New Voyage Round the World (1697). In this work, Natural Law philosophy can be seen as forcing Dampier to distance himself from Indigenous people in order to appear “untainted” by other races. An examination of earlier drafts shows how these references have consciously been edited out. In his next book, A Voyage to New Holland, Dampier again removed references to violence; this was to assist him in beating a court-martial for excessive cruelty. It should be noted that during this voyage he killed Indigenous Australians. Following this, I look at Dampier’s effect on English literature, including the works of John Locke, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe. Locke’s writings about private property certainly influenced Dampier’s views of Australia and, I argue, Locke’s idea of a tabula rasa was transferred onto the landscape of Australia: meaning that the tabula rasa of Australia remains empty until a man such as William Dampier can arrive and begin filling it with his writing. Making Dampier’s task to write Australia into existence. After this, I examine the absorption of these ideas by Joseph Banks and Matthew Flinders and their influence on successive generations of Australians. To locate this knowledge in the field of historical fiction, I undertake a critical reading of three historical novels that feature William Dampier as the main character: Recognition by Dijon Deverell; Brother Captain and The Cygnet Adventure, both by Alan Chester. To aid with this critique, I utilise Borges’s figure of Pierre Menard and acts of literature that aim for “total identification” with past historical periods (Borges 65). All three of these historical novels present Dampier in the heroic mode and, therefore, are compromised by their uncritical representation of Dampier as an enlightened man of reason. The modality of historical fiction has always been a contentious issue in Australia. By examining historical novels that feature Dampier, we can understand just how complex the question of legitimate historiography is. After this examination I undertake a Sebaldian reading of these novels by incorporating a reading of Horkheimer and Adorno (along with Coetzee). Building on this I then fuse these ideas with Michel Foucault’s idea of a counterhistory in order to chart how a new historiography has emerged that seeks to reveal what has been formerly ignored or wilfully misrepresented by traditional historiography. I examine how Don DeLillo reformulates Foucault’s idea of a counterhistory in his novels Libra and Underworld and puts back into his American historical novels what has been purposefully hidden. I also incorporate Christina Brooke-Rose’s idea of a historical novel as palimpsest history that aims less to accurately capture the past than to use the past as a platform with which to expand that novel’s reader’s perceptions. Finally, to situate these ideas in an Australian context, I examine Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party as a case study. In this Australian historical novel, Wilson presents his work as a supplement to the historical record that undertakes a crucial task (outside of the scope of traditional historiography) of presenting the human experience of the past.
Advisor: Jose, Nicholas
Butterss, Philip
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2017.
Keywords: creative writing
historical fiction
William Dampier
Provenance: Pt. 1 [Novel] Horatio Dawn [Embargoed] -- Pt. 2 [Exegesis] Invisibly somewhere between the two clauses.
This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
DOI: 10.25909/5b99bfce701d2
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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