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Abstract

Cowan essay:

The central argument of this essay is that Peter Cowan’s modernist experiments in fiction have not received due acknowledgement. A complex and conflicted personality, Cowan emerged in the 1940s as a writer under the sponsorship of the Angry Penguins in Melbourne, but has become identified with Western Australia where he was born and lived almost all his life. This essay, which discusses his love-hate relationship with the place, attempts to counter the limiting view that he is a regional writer. Drawing attention to the extraordinary contrast been his modernist fiction and his old-fashioned historical chronicles of his colonial forbears, it reveals him as a man psychically wounded by his family’s past, whose over-riding concern in his fiction was to match in words the emotional immediacy that the Angry Penguins achieved in paint.

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