Rabardy, a novel, and the South-Pacific short stories of Louis Becke: a critical study

Warren, Victoria (2017) Rabardy, a novel, and the South-Pacific short stories of Louis Becke: a critical study. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis consists of a novel, Rabardy, and an extended critical analysis of the South-
Pacific short stories of Louis Becke.
Rabardy is based on events which took place around 1882, in what is now the
Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea, a place I know personally. The story
follows the activities of white traders and a missionary, who negotiate and sometimes
violently conflict with the indigenous Melanesians, and who become embroiled in the
dissolution of a disastrous French Catholic settler colony. My protagonist is a French
sea captain in his late fifties, a man admired for his competence by traders yet
considered a monster by the colonists he serves, who believe he is cynically
imprisoning them. Rabardy’s ultimate disillusionment with the wider Western colonial
project is suggested by the final documentary section – his journal, which redirects the
story towards its hidden subject: the Melanesian people.
In both elements of this thesis, one problem is addressed in different ways: how to
narrate colonialism. With stories from Sebald’s The Emigrants and Louis Becke as a
model, the novel incorporates different voices and documents to build up a fragmentary
image of a complex picture. My frame narrator is based on Louis Becke, who sat beside
the dying sea captain.
My critical essay reappraises Becke and his stories – long out of print – which I
encountered during my research. Through close readings and a re-examination of his
biography, I reject certain myths and uncover a more aesthetically and ideologically
complex engagement with the anxieties of empire than Becke’s current reputation
permits. I show how Becke uses polyphony to dramatise and ventriloquise voices from
either side of the colonial conflict, nesting different mindsets, types of narration and
consciousness in a way which demonstrates the proto-modernist impressionism which is
usually associated with Conrad and Ford.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Katie Miller
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2017 08:58
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2017 08:58
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/64090
DOI:

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