The Literary Transformation of Memory Across Generations

Noela McNamara

Abstract


Artistic and cultural representations of space, place, memory, and belonging are some of the fundamental aspects of fictional narratives. This paper focuses on how the tropics evolve as a place of belonging in Terri Janke’s Butterfly song through literary transformation of generational memories of personal and family experiences combined with historical fact. The notion of the tropics as ‘different’ is examined through complex relationships between the place where the protagonist, Tarena Shaw, lives in Sydney; the place that she calls home, Cairns; and the place of her ancestors, Thursday Island in the Torres Straits. Layers of memory unfold through family stories revisited in the context of contemporary cultural life to ensure the return of a pearl brooch lost for nearly forty years. Components of culture, a love story, a connection of things to ancestors and people, and the history of the Torres Straits and Cairns are the foci of Janke’s novel. These features demonstrate how multiple perspectives of place and memory can enrich the literary imagination and in turn, enlighten Australian readers to the historical past and present life of tropical North Queensland.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.12.2.2013.3346

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