"This Fantastic Land of Monstrosities". The Aesthetic of the Australian Grotesque in the Long Nineteenth Century
The grotesque holds a pivotal place in Australia’s cultural history. This article explores the aesthetic and intellectual preconceptions that underpin the Australian grotesque. It argues that the Australian grotesque forms a quilting point at which two oppositional modes of representing Australia, the utopian and the dystopian, converge. The grotesque, in other words, has served contradictory aesthetic and intellectual ends throughout Australia’s history, but ultimately provided a form of coping mechanism for dealing with what was perceived to be the strangeness of Australia, that is, the incomprehensible elusiveness and ineffability of the Australian experience as felt by the European subject. The focus of this article lies on the long nineteenth century, the period in which the aforementioned feeling of estrangement was arguably most acute. Probing into the aesthetic and philosophical roots that predate and inform the Australian grotesque, this article highlights the most prominent issues and principles of the grotesque in an Australian context.