Today we explored the meaning of this wonderfully suggestive line from Judith Wright’s poem “Rockface”. Judith Wright’s line picks up a core theme in Australian Literature from the earliest days of colonization through to our own times: what is our attitude to the Australian landscape? Is it utilitarian and appropriative? Or is it open to how the landscape might be able to bring us to a new understanding of itself and of ourselves. The fragment of Wright’s poem is here:
Of the age-long heave of a cliff-face, all’s come down
Except this split upstanding stone, like a gravestone.
Sun-orchids bloomed here, out and gone in a month.
For drought-stricken years, I haven’t seen those flowers.
In the days of the hunters with spears, this rock had a name.
Rightly they knew the ancestral powers of stone…
I’ve no wish to chisel things into new shapes.
The remnant of a mountain has its own meaning.
The poem dovetails beautifully with Russell Drysdale’s wonderful image “Desert Landscape” 1952, that presents the Australian desert landscape with the colours and atmosphere of something reverential, something akin to the relationship to the landscape that might be experienced by indigenous inhabitants:
In lectures and tutorials we pursued this idea today into the work of the explorer Mitchell and D.H. Lawrence.
To listen to both the lecture and the tutorial on this topic please tune in right here:
Here are the images that accompanied the Lecture:
Here are the White Board Summaries that accompanied our discussion in Tutorial 4:
Here is the PDF from Elaine Lindsay’s Tutorial: