Imagining Australia in fairy tales, philosophical essays and children’s songs: Olga Ernst’s construction of bush fantasy in Australian children’s literature from a German-Australian perspective
AuthorKellock Floyd, Robyn
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
MetadataShow full item record
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2015 Dr. Robyn Elaine Kellock Floyd
This thesis examines the establishment of distinctive Australian environs in the fairy tales, philosophical essays and children’s songs of Olga Ernst (1888–1972). The main argument is that Ernst, influenced by her German-Australian heritage and her vocation of teaching, actively promoted Australian identity through scientifically accurate, and poetically descriptive portrayals of the Australian environment in Australian children’s literature. Applying a new historicist methodology to deconstruct the sociological and historical orientation of Ernst’s texts I demonstrate the interplay between social, political and cultural forces and her construct of national identity through landscape in her stories. While this thesis is not a biography I examine the relationship between Ernst’s childhood experiences within the Melbourne-German Community, her teaching career, church life and community service in order to acknowledge, and examine their influence on her writing. The close analysis of Ernst’s works allows a focus on the fashioning of her stories to reflect the German cultural context of her early life, and a later shaping through education to create an Australian identity grounded in the environment. I explore the relationship between the life and work of Ernst. Ernst’s influence on Australian children’s literature is examined in terms of the response to her work in contemporary newspaper reviews and personal correspondence and contrasted with dismissive appraisals by literature critics in the late 20th century. The outcome of this scholarship is that Ernst’s concept of Australian national identity is coloured by her personal experiences, her perspective as a woman, a teacher, and a staunch Christian, who was of German, and Australian heritage. Ernst constructed an Australian fantasy world in her fairy tales while her later works reflected the developing concept of her particular perception of Australian nationhood by presenting the bush as an authentic backdrop to her philosophical essays and her songs.
KeywordsAustralian fairy tales; Olga Ernst
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