Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Humanities Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details

 Download: Poster | Brochure 1 | Brochure 2    

Rootlessness and its Emergence in Late Twentieth-Century Literature: Narrative as Panacea

Tangea Tansley.

When British Orientalist Edward G. Browne wrote ‘A Year Amongst the Persians’ in the latter stages of the nineteenth century, he was writing from the perspective of his Englishness. Although Browne identified with the Persian people to such an extent that he was dubbed “The Persian”, although he supported the cause behind the Persian revolution against his own government, and although he dedicated his life to capturing the literature of Persia in a four-volume work that spanned his lifetime, he remained an Englishman with a clear sense of his own identity and nationality.

Browne’s account can be compared with two late twentieth-century writers, the Sri Lankan Michael Ondaatje and Australian Michèle Drouart. Although Ondaatje writes from his adopted country, Canada, his narratives suggest a restlessness and a rootlessness, a sense of fragmentation and frustration: a running “to” and a running “from”. A similar sense of the displaced informs Drouart’s ‘Into the Wadi’, the Australian’s intensely personal account of her life in Jordan and the links she forged within a small village community and “the sense of wrenching” she experienced when she was forced to leave.

From what is said as well as what is not said within their works, all three writers could be said to be in a state of exile from the countries for which they have the most feeling. There is, however, a sense of comfort and closure in Browne’s work that is not evident in the narratives of the other two writers.

This paper argues that exile is as much a state of mind as a geographic fact and that certain common characteristics arise in the literary output of those writers who, for one reason or another, reside and write in a country other than their heartland. The writers are, however, but one half of the analogy. What strength of desire for belonging draws readers to these books?


Tangea Tansley  (Australia)
Postgraduate Research in Literature
Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Murdoch University

In true postmodern style, my peripatetic lifestyle somewhat resembles a kaleidoscope with literature as the only dominant thread. What began as a career in editing and publishing gave way to an accelerating desire to study literature at tertiary level. This has resulted in my current postgraduate research into cross-cultural representation in literature as well as lecturing and tutoring positions within that discipline. I am the author of two full-length publications.

  • Rootlessness
  • Identity
  • Belonging
  • Displacement
  • Exile as a State of Mind
Person as Subject
  • Browne, Edward Granville Ondaatje, Michael Drouart, Michèle

(30 min Conference Paper, English)