Waterhouse, Richard: Vision splendid

Waterhouse, Richard

The Vision Splendid: A Social and Cultural History of Rural Australia, Curtin University Books, Fremantle, WA, 2005

Describes how ‘the Bush’, where most Australians do not live, has played an important part in shaping national identity. This is reminiscent of the conversion of Anzac into myth.

Some of the best passages of this book are those explaining how the Bush tradition emerged around the turn of the twentieth century from a nostalgic yearning for an idealised past that was quickly disappearing amid rapid transformations in rural life – changes that were making the Bush less remote and less distinctive. Whereas Russel Ward had ‘the Australian Legend’ migrate from the Bush to the city, and Graeme Davison from city to Bush, Waterhouse typically presents it as a more fluid and irregular interchange back and forth. He focuses particularly on how the legend changed, for example, after it was co-opted and distorted to create a valorized, nationalistic past by the likes of C.E.W. Bean. (David Roberts review, History Australia, 4, 2, 2007, pp. 63.1-63.2, accessible online)

An article here from Australian Humanities Review takes up general issues in rural cultural studies and the author talks about his book here (with transcript).

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