Abstract

This article proposes that the motif of the family tree might be reimagined, so as to incorporate a wider and more fluid set of relations. After offering a critical analysis of the normative images of the family tree and the rhetorical sleights of hand they perform, it suggests that we might locate alternative models of the family tree by closely examining literary representations of actual trees. It then focuses on two Australian novels that offer unconventional depictions of trees while valorizing queer kinship relations outside the constraints of the nuclear family: David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon (1993) and Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot (1961). Through a close examination of how Malouf and White each depict the tree’s temporality, its dynamic motion, and its active engagement with surrounding organisms, the article points to aspects of the natural world that might help inform and enrich our conceptions of the family tree.

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