The cultural options of a settler intellectual: Dan Tout, ‘Reframing ‘Inky’ Stephensen’s place in Australian cultural history’ Settler Colonial Studies, 2016
Abstract: This article examines the existing literature surrounding Percy Reginald Stephensen (1901–1965). ‘Inky’ to his friends, Stephensen was a prominent yet complex and ostensibly contradictory figure of the Australian literary, cultural and political landscape of the 1930s and early 1940s. In an attempt to overcome what this article presents as the persistent sense of analytical obscurity and uncertainty surrounding both Stephensen and his most famous essay, The Foundations of Culture in Australia, the following analysis reveals that, taken together, attempts to explicate this perplexing figure present an inconsistent and often conflictual picture of Stephensen. In particular, two central ambiguities in the existing historiography are highlighted, the first revolving around divergent interpretations of Stephensen as either radical or reactionary in intent, the second hinging on competing conceptions of Stephensen as either a cultural cringer or an anti-imperial chauvinist in sentiment. The article concludes by introducing a settler colonial studies interpretive perspective as a potential means of bringing the admittedly ambivalent aspects of Stephensen within the same analytical frame. In so doing, the analysis proposes a reinterpretation of Stephensen as a settler nationalist intellectual.
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