Flagging Spaces : exploring the myth of the Australian beach as an egalitarian space
Ellison, Elizabeth (2010) Flagging Spaces : exploring the myth of the Australian beach as an egalitarian space. In Ignite10! Creative Industries Postgraduate Research Conference, October 27th - 29th, 2010, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. (Unpublished)
The Australian beach is now accepted as a significant part of Australian national culture and identity. However, Huntsman (2001) and Booth (2001) both believe that the beach is dying: “intellectuals have failed to apply to the beach the attention they have lavished on the bush…” (Huntsman 2001, 218). Yet the beach remains a prominent image in contemporary literature and film; authors such as Tim Winton and Robert Drewe frequently set their stories in and around the coast. Although initially considered a space of myth (Fiske, Hodge, and Turner 1987), Meaghan Morris labelled the beach as ‘ordinary’ (1998), and as recently as 2001 in the wake of the Sydney Olympic Games, Bonner, McKee, and Mackay termed the beach ‘tacky’ and ‘familiar’. The beach, it appears, defies an easy categorisation. In fact, I believe the beach is more than merely mythic or ordinary, or a combination of the two. Instead it is an imaginative space, seamlessly shifting its metaphorical meanings dependent on readings of the texts.
My studies examine the beach through five common beach myths; this paper will explore the myth of the beach as an egalitarian space. Contemporary Australian national texts no longer conform to these mythical representations – (in fact, was the beach ever a space of equality?), instead creating new definitions for the beach space that continually shifts in meaning. Recent texts such as Tim Winton’s Breath (2008) and Stephen Orr’s Time’s Long Ruin (2010) lay a more complex metaphorical meaning upon the beach space. This paper will explore the beach as a space of egalitarianism in conjunction with recent Australian fiction and films in order to discover how the contemporary beach is represented.
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