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Joseph 1b: ascension of hope

March 26, 2011

Dreamhunter -Elizabeth Knox

Re. Dreamhunter – Elizabeth Knox

As discussed by: Laura Joseph ”Opening the gates of hell: regional emergences in Carpentariaand Dreamhunter.” Southerly. 69.2 (Summer 2009): p66(15).

Joseph argues that Dreamhunter may signal a new shift in antipodean writing, when seen as an anabasis narrative. (Discussing Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria as well), she explains that “the novels may signal a significant moment in contemporary negotiations of locality and identity, for the ascension into hope they enact is grounded in the materiality of particular places. The hope offered then, is not so much figured as delayed or futural, as is conventional, nor is it abstracted. It is, rather, anchored in, and made possible by the elemental matter of particular places, by dirt and air, earth and breath.”

Anabasis is not something I’m familiar with, though Joseph does explain her understanding of such an analysis, writing:

“Understood in relation to katabasis, a term deployed in literary criticism to nominate a descent narrative, particularly a journey to the underworld, anabasis refers to the ascent or emergence that conventionally concludes a katabatic narrative. The conventional pattern of these narratives has been set out by literary critic Rachel Falconer in her study of Hell in Contemporary Literature, in which she maps the tripartite structure of a katabasis narrative, namely: descent, inversion, and return or anabasis.”

She further explains that: “As a return from the centre of hell, anabasis conventionally signifies an emergence from a place of despair into one of hope.”

Her argument then centers around the way in which Dreamhunter and Carpentaria rewrite these traditions. Honestly, I would have to read more about this narrative idea to engage properly with her argument, but it seems to be a more physical engagement with the text than I personally enjoy taking, so I won’t be doing it straight away.

I must say, though, that I did enjoy Joseph’s point that Dreamhunter works towards an ending where the novel’s characters gain “the chance to have a future and not a fate.” THAT is an interesting idea to me!

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