Adventure Tales, Colonialism, and Alexander Montgomery's Australian Perspective
by Christine Doran
Abstract: In her paper, "Adventure Tales, Colonialism, and Alexander Montgomery's Australian
Perspective," Christine Doran discusses an early nineteenth-century example of Australian literature
dealing with Southeast Asia. The text analysed is about Borneo, in a collection of short stories by
Alexander Montgomery entitled Five-Skull Island and Other Tales of the Malay Archipelago, published
in Melbourne in 1897. In the paper, Doran's focus is on Montgomery's adventure tales and she
situates the texts within their literary and cultural contexts. Montgomery's writing is then analyzed in
the light of postcolonial scholarship. Doran argues that in several important ways this author's work
runs counter to the assertions made by some scholars of postcolonial studies concerning the nature of
late nineteenth-century colonial fiction. In particular, Doran's analysis suggests that a close-text
interpretation -- executed within a cultural context -- of Montgomery's text allows several commonly
accepted generalizations concerning racism and masculinism within colonial literary discourse to be
questioned. A minor Australian writer, of Irish descent and with marked working-class sympathies,
Alexander Montgomery was able to adopt a perspective on colonial Southeast Asia from "down under."
As Doran shows, Montgomery wrote from the point of view of those, whether of European or Asian
ancestry, who struggled for survival in the colonized territories. Montgomery's texts thus present a
challenging view of the colonial context from the margins of the British-European empire.
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