The Dirt Witches’ Counter-narrative: A Response to Murray Bail’s "Eucalyptus"


  • Prudence Gibson University of New South Wales



critical plant studies, ecofeminism, sustainable counter-narratives, urban forests


Murray Bail’s 1998 novel Eucalyptus is an exposition of land ownership, plant classification and human-land relations, using a fairy tale structure. Bail uses parodic excess to deftly undermine settler preoccupations and European traditions that have historically been transposed onto the Australian bush. However, upon a second reading twenty-four years after the first, this author detected an absence of decolonial context in the book, relative to the time of publication, and an unintended reinforcement of misogyny that requires fresh interrogation. This author’s own work as a member of a Dirt Witch collective presents as a dovetailed creative object—an urban forest artwork 2021—and allows a witchy reading of Bail’s 1998 book and more contemporary attempts to redress colonial failures. It also allows an interrogation of the way the novel re-stereotypes Australian women on the land, re-oppresses both land and women and reinforces the very misogyny it was purported to expose.


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Author Biography

Prudence Gibson, University of New South Wales

Prudence Gibson is an author and academic at the School of Art and Design, University of NSW, Sydney. She is Lead Investigator of an Australian Research Council grant in partnership with Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium. Her recent books are The Plant Contract (Brill Rodopi 2018), Janet Laurence: The Pharmacy of Plants (NewSouth Publishing 2015), and her forthcoming book, The Plant Thieves will be published in March 2023.






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