About The Project

The question of cultural identity is a fraught one in the Australian context. Since settlement, waves of migration have complicated Australia’s self-narrative and posed difficult questions about who is included, whose story is voiced and whose narrative takes precedence.

Australian identity has moved on from a mythical understanding of Australia as monocultural, monolingual, monoethnic, monotheistic or monoracial but the discussion of Australian cultural identity is far from resolved.

Very recent scholarship in Australian literary and cultural studies interrogates Australian literature written in languages other than English. In light of the ‘global turn’ in literary studies, these studies interrogate the many linguistic and cultural influences that have

contributed to Australian identity. Several scholars have examined Australian literature written in Chinese, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and German. These studies of migrant literature are an ideal site for the study of the complexities of identity construction and forge new understandings of Australian culture.

French texts have not been part of this, however, and is thus a lacuna in this scholarship. The French have had a connection with Australia since the Baudin expedition and the first narrative of Australia in French was published in 1676. Early contact between France and Australia spawned fictional imaginings of Australia and these texts have attracted scholarly attention. Nevertheless, since the 19th century, there is a history of non-fictional writing in

French by migrants to Australia. These texts – memoirs, diaries, letters and first-person narratives that are all classed as ‘life writing’ – have never received sustained critical attention. These narratives reveal very different formulations of Australian identity and a historical study of them will add important knowledge to our understanding of what it is to be Australian.

Our project goals

  • Examine literature written by French migrants to Australia in order to contribute to the broader debate about national and world literatures;
  • Generate new understandings of how migrant writers construct identity in a language different from the main language of their host nation;
  • Use the insights of this textual analysis to highlight the complexity and multiplicity of Australian identity.

Expected outcomes to this project include enhanced knowledge of Australian literature, of practices of migrant writing, and of the construction of Australian identity. This will provide significant benefits, such as a wider understanding of the diversity of Australian literature, an increased awareness of literature in languages other than English in Australia, and a nuanced appreciation of Australian identity.