The abjection of settler colonialism: Lukas Klik, ‘Colonial Hauntings: Settler Colonialism and the Abject in Kenneth Cook’s Fear Is the Rider’, JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 2022


Abstract: Kenneth Cook is perhaps a lesser-known name in Australian literature. While Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 film adaptation of Cook’s debut novel Wake in Fright (1961), picturing the descent of a Sydney teacher into madness in a remote outback town, has achieved cult status among cineastes, the book itself has received relatively little attention. Apart from Wake in Fright, Cook wrote seventeen other novels and many more short stories (see author record), but his early death at the age of 57 in 1987 cut short his writing career. Almost thirty years after the author’s death, however, a hitherto unknown novel by Cook was discovered and, in 2016, published under the title Fear Is the Rider. With its bleak depiction of the Australian outback, the newly discovered novel echoes Wake in Fright in many ways, but it is more than simply a Gothic narrative about the Red Centre. In fact, as I suggest in this article, one of its main interests is settler colonialism. In this context, drawing on Julia Kristeva’s notion of the abject, I argue that Fear Is the Rider constructs Australian settler colonialism as an abject structure by envisioning it as something that, despite efforts to do so, cannot be banished and instead haunts the nation uncomfortably. The narrative of Fear Is the Rider centres on the pervasiveness of colonialist structures and discourses and in this way eventually provokes readers to question them.

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