Seeking the Centre: The Australian Desert in Literature, Art and Film

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The desert - simultaneously alluring and repellent - has a hypnotic presence in Australian culture. The 'Centre' is distant and unknown to most Australians, yet has become a symbol of the country, most recently being promoted as a site for eco-tourism, new age enlightenment, environmental renewal and racial reconciliation. This book reveals the singular impact that the desert, both geographical and metaphorical, has had on Australian identity. While it concentrates on the period from white settlement to the present, it also examines prehistory, touching on the geological significance of the Australian desert. At the heart of the book is the contrast between the European-driven notion of an empty, monotonous wilderness, and the profound spiritual relationship that Aboriginal Australians have with the desert.

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List of illustrations
Some facts about Australian deserts xiv
imperatives for discovery 36
or what the explorers wrote into the landscape 58
the art of exploration 85
dead explorers and national identity 111
psychodrama in fiction and film 184
figures of the subconscious 209
retelling the exploration stories 226
evolution and ecology of the desert 249
the desert in the Age of Aquarius 261
The art of cultural encounter 281

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