The life and writings of Melinda Kendall, 19th-century Australian writer, pioneer, teacher and mother of the (presently) more-renowned Henry
An entirely successful literary/critical biography can never be written, if the numerous theoretical points-of-view on the subject are to be believed. This site will try to explain the joys and difficulties of an attempt to recover a life – that of Melinda Kendall, mother of Henry Kendall, celebrated nineteenth century Australian poet, and a published writer in her own right – using her body of work as a way of informing a biographical representation, as well as utilising archival and biographical information to inform an analysis of her work. Though this process may seem to bring two methods / theories of literary criticism – New Historicism and Cultural Materialism – into conflict, the resultant two-way flow between non-literary, archival material and Melinda Kendall’s creative output could prove valuable in an attempt to represent a life made almost invisible by the glow of Henry Kendall’s celebrity. Many factors have contributed to Melinda Kendall’s exclusion from Australian literary history, including her geographic isolation in the Illawarra, her position as a woman in nineteenth-century patriarchal society, and her relegation to the margins of her more-famous son’s story. This site will be dedicated to describing an attempt at inclusion.
The image is of EMILY KENDALL , Melinda’s youngest daughter. As no Photograph of Melinda has yet been located this may be as close as we come to a likeness of Melinda herself.
CHAPTER OUTLINE – REDESIGNED
Introduction: Overview of thesis.
- The what: Melinda Kendall’s invisibility in literary history and confused, contradictory existence in the story of Henry Kendall. This paper’s hope that a clearer version of Melinda Kendall can be made available, incorporating a better-researched personal chronology and life history, with reference to her writings and the personal philosophy apparent in them.
- The how: An outline of theoretical positions I’ll be looking at (eg, Gynocritism, regionalism debate, feminist notions of exclusion, theory involved in re-remembering, hierarchies of power in relation to Melinda’s position as mother / regional writer / 19th century woman writer, as discussed in detail in further chapters).
- The why: A Case for Her Inclusion: Melinda Kendall’s place in the scholarship of remembering nineteenth century Australian women writers, citing the reasons other women have been re-remembered, as well as her exclusion from Australian literary bibliographies (incorporating material from Literature Review).
Chapter 1: Will the Real Henry’s Mother …?
Clarification of the confusing entity she is within Henry’s history, with results of my archival research into her family history and personal details, in much more detail than in the Introduction. This could include “sharpening the blurred focus,” a clarified version of her life away from the confusion and contradiction that exists in “Preliminary Findings”. I will address each of the anomalies in turn, and present the findings of my research regarding each. Melinda Kendall’s undoing of her myth within her own writing: Is she sending the message about wanting to become a writer in her own right? An examination of the writings: is she narrating her legacy of being Henry’s mother and her need to be recognised as her own writer?
Chapter 2: Will the Real Illawarra / Regional Writer …?
With reference to her situation in the Illawarra and in other regional areas, material clarifying our subject of research as Melinda McNally (and possibly Melinda Hill) before she was Henry’s mother, and after Henry’s death as a regional writer in her own right. Reference to her Temperance stance in later writings, as opposed to her depiction as a dypsomaniac during Henry’s lifetime would be helpful here.
Chapter 3: Her Place in the Scholarship of Re-Remembering:
With reference to the scholarship surrounding the Colonial Texts series, as well as other scholarship about 19th Century women writers and the process of re-remembering them. Some mention here of histories of the Illawarra and Melinda Kendall’s exclusion from them. Once again, the “parameters of exclusion” (and inclusion) would bring into focus the reasons why Illawarra local history texts have not included her (aspects of this could also be included in the previous chapter related to regionalism). [This Chapter 3 of the Outline Redesign will now include the what was previously a separate chapter: Parameters of Exclusion: These will include some of the regionalism / centralism issues I identified in my MA (Hons) thesis, and the Literature Review for that paper – issues surrounding Illawarra writers being excluded from “centralist” literary histories.]
Chapter 4: Will the Real Nineteenth-Century Writer …?
An overview of 19th Century Australian literary society (The Stenhouse Circle, eg) could be valuable in this chapter, as a way of positioning Melinda Kendall in her times. A “Chronology” of dates of publication of her works, connected with and compared to her biographical details and the events of history that may have affected her (per “Stenhouse autobiography quote?).