Some Reflections on Myth, History and Memory As Determinants of Narrative

Anne Holden Rønning


Against a background of theoretical reflections on myth, history and memory this paper will discuss their use as narrative strategies in texts from Australia and New Zealand. Scholars differ as to the meaning of myth whether it is formed by “contradictory narratives, which become involved in one another like threads of a tapestry, too intertwined to summarize adequately, and endless” as Bidermann and Scharfstein suggest (1993, 9); “a system of communication” (Barthes 1972); or the expression of “man’s understanding of himself in the world in which he lives.” (Bultman 1993). I shall argue that in Malouf`s Remembering Babylon the myth of Aborigine life is central to an understanding of Gemmy, and memory gives a false almost mythical picture of life in the old country, a situation found in many postcolonial texts from settler countries. That myth is not only associated with the past is evident in Oodgeroo´s Stories from the Old and New Dreamtime which raises some interesting questions about the use of myth. The boundaries between history and memory are often blurred and fluid in fiction, as is evident in the work of the New Zealand writer, Yvonne du Fresne. Historical memory is a determining feature of her texts, where the boundaries between historical facts and memories of life in Denmark haunt her protagonists. In Frederique this intertwining becomes a strategy for investigating Frédérique d’Albert’s situation, a young woman of both French and Danish origin whose memories, fictional and real, determine many of her actions and show the tenuous link between memory and dreams.


myth and memory; history and memory; literature

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