Bush Studies, le recueil de nouvelles de l’écrivain australien Barbara Baynton, fut publié en Pendant longtemps on considéra ses nouvelles comme mal. LibriVox recording of Bush Studies by Barbara Baynton. Read in English by Kirsty Leishman Bush Studies is a short story collection published. Rereading Barbara Baynton’s. Bush Studies. Leigh Dale. The work of Barbara Baynton (), a small number of short stories and the novella Human Toll.

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Written at the very end of the nineteenth century, the stories within it are mostly delivered in a deadpan narration that means the violence at their centre often builds so quietly and subtly that their eruption is as shocking as it is brutal.

Such re-writing of colonial Australian mythology, and the place of women within it, began with the two generation of writers who followed Baynton: It is no less remarkable that Baynton was doing this, and with such fierceness and bloodiness, not to mention such formal boldness, as early as They are disturbingly and deliberately ambiguous, and they work by resonance and a kind of rhythmic repetition — according to a poetic logic, that is, rather than a more simple narrative drive.

These echoing images are especially important because Baynton uses them to charge the inanimate objects and animals in her stories with the energy and emotions that are denied to the women, and occasional men, who exist, and suffer, alongside them. Her women are, almost always, silent — unwilling or unable to speak. In their place, it is these objects and creatures that become expressive and emotive and link together narratives that at first glance seem incongruous or inconsequential.

She watches the activity in her house from the shed to which she has been relegated, with only her dog for company. These are violent, anxious stories, involving characters who vary greatly in their physical strength, their power, their gender and their gender roles; and they are delivered in different registers and modes.

But they are held together by inference and repetition, by the variations they perform upon implicit themes. The most striking of these themes, I think, are silence and surveillance. The sense of watching, and of the withheld, work to build up the thick dread and anticipation that Baynton is so adept at bringing to her stories.

Her taciturnity is telling. As soon as she is displaced, she becomes totally silent. The new mate is terrified of Mary — and this much is understandable: She has been abandoned by a previous lover. And Mary, whose position she cannot be unaware of having usurped, is fierce and unreadable in her silence — all she does is watch. She would rather have abuse.


She wastes water, even though she is entirely dependent on Squeaker to fetch it, and so becomes maddeningly thirsty when he disappears one afternoon in pursuit of a terrified horse. The climax of this story comes when the new mate approaches Mary in the old hut to steal some of the water in the billy by barbaa side. Interestingly, the perspective in this scene shifts, from a distanced, omniscient kind of narration, to barbaea that is more tightly focused on the new mate.

This woman, that is, is not a clueless, frivolous victim; nor is she a heartless usurper.

By allowing us access to her thoughts here, Baynton shows this woman to be every bit as constrained and vulnerable in her choices as any of the women on the receiving end of violence and brutality across Bush Studies as a whole.

Eventually, the new mate reaches studoes the billy, and Mary grabs her barbaraa the hand, and pulls her down towards her bunk. It is as if everything that they have suppressed, with silence or with acquiescence, has burst through, has finally become untenable or unbearable for them both.

The power that silence lends these women is only partial, imperfect and far too brittle — it relies on a kind of absence, as William Lane observes, rather than any effect or agency. And as such, it seems inevitable that it should break. This stjdies, though, the violence has been anticipated by the characters across the story, and this time, the victim, who has previously spoken voluminously and constantly, is silent and unsettling because he has already died.

But this is precisely why it is fascinating. The shepherd talks across the night to his dog, Warder, an abbreviated and accented version of Waterloo, who is equally, or even more expressive in response — but all of this noise only serves to highlight the silence, and the threat, of the surrounding bush.

This contrast is all the more interesting because the anxieties that the shepherd voices, in his continual talking against the silence of the bush, turn more often on women and maternity than they do on the more obvious, more immediate and more justified threat posed by Scrammy.

The shepherd must intervene, on both of these occasions, in the business of breeding and rearing young, and he complains vociferously about this. Where Mary fights her replacement and her abuser with silence and indecipherability, the shepherd fights the threats he faces with a torrent of words, directed at symbolic objects and animals.

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What this suggests is that Baynton is portraying here a hysterical man — a truly transgressive move for the time in which she was writing. These symbolic animals are also interesting because we encounter them often in Bush Studies: These stories echo, transfer their charge. The change is marked by a noise that the dog hears outside, while the shepherd is ritualistically counting his coins. The shepherd is unwilling to suspect Scrammy, who is, after all, an old friend, and a man whose physical incapacity seems precariously close to that of the shepherd, who is advancing in age and in barbarx strength — he is unable to see clearly enough to thread a needle, or hold his hands steady enough to clear his pipe; he is forgetful.


Instead, the shepherd assigns these thoughts to his dog: As a villain, Scrammy does not really pass muster — when Baynton switches to his perspective it becomes obvious that he too is afraid, almost to barbzra point of paranoia. He continually checks the for changes in the light that would mean that day is approaching, he practices the actions of breaking into the hut and attacking whilst hiding in the myalls, and spends an inordinate amount of time driving the sheep from their pen and then rounding them up again in an effort to draw the shepherd from his hut.

He listens for small noises in the silence.

Bush Studies – Wikisource, the free online library

Baynton approaches this with typical resonant indirection: Eyes are a source of terror, once again. The story ends, that is, by telescoping the moment out of time — it becomes traumatic, much more so than the violence beforehand.

The stories are strangely decentred — either by silence, or compulsive speech — and always flatly-delivered; Baynton builds acute observation and surveillance, displaced emotion and expression, and a thick wordlessness where words are needed most.

But there are also minute power plays at work in each of them, although the only agency available, especially for women, is partial, refusing, and usually met with overt violence.

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