'Death charged missives': Australian literary responses to the Spanish Civil War

PhD Thesis

Beasley, Brian Glen. 2006. 'Death charged missives': Australian literary responses to the Spanish Civil War. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

'Death charged missives': Australian literary responses to the Spanish Civil War

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorBeasley, Brian Glen
SupervisorMusgrove, Brian
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages395

[Abstract]: ‘Spanish Civil War’ is an important, absent signifier in Australian history, letters, writing and cultural politics of the 1930s. I argue that despite the glossing over of the importance of Spain’s war in the period, events in Spain had a pervasive influence on Australian society, and writers in particular – on their political re-alignments, on their nationalist and internationalist cultural outlooks, and on their common acceptance that they lived in an essentially tragic age. Consequently, the critical neglect of Spain and its impact on Australian cultural affairs in the 30s is unwarranted.
My thesis research has covered a very wide range of texts: the ephemeral pamphlet, the small circulation journal, poetry, agitprop, the mainstream novel, the ‘mass declamation’ and the associated ‘new media’ of the 30s – photography and film. It has also looked at different groups or cultural networks in the period, all of which (despite their disparate politics) saw Spain as a central cause: the Catholic Church, the Communist Party, anti-fascist and peace movements amongst others.
The theoretical dimension of my work is driven by Raymond Williams’ concept of ‘structure of feeling’, first formulated in his study The Long Revolution then developed in a series of subsequent works. The generous range of texts I study conforms to Williams’ theory of ‘structure of feeling’, arguing that to understand the ‘field’ of a period, one should survey the interconnectivity of all its texts. Also drawing on Williams’ theory, I read the structured feeling of the 30s as essentially tragic: revealing exactly how Spain focalised fears and apparently symbolised the impasse of ‘modernity’ itself – Spain was a spectacle that graphically demonstrated how the inner destructiveness of technological modernity had tragically cancelled the possibility of progress and the arrival of variously imagined utopias.

KeywordsSpanish Civil War; Australian literature; Australia
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470502. Australian literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature)
470599. Literary studies not elsewhere classified
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