“Ripped and Tortured Skin”: Mapping the Body in Peter Carey’s <i>Jack Maggs</i>
Keywords:Peter Carey, Jack Maggs, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Mapping
This article reads Peter Carey’s novel Jack Maggs (1997) through a focus on mapping and mobility. Following John Thieme’s recent attention to postcolonial literary geographies, the article argues that ideas of mapping in the text move away from fixed notions of place and space in order to disrupt colonial dynamics of control and power. It suggests that Jack Maggs explores the concept of vernacular cartography, in which bodies bear their own maps of trauma and transience. The eponymous Jack Maggs destabilizes the borders of Empire through his mobility, though he in turn faces attempts by other characters to manage and discipline his itinerant body. Similarly, the article considers how Peter Carey’s fictional mobility – his engagement with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and his representation of Victorian England – challenges the literary maps that had long been used to fix Australian identity.
Through its concern with mobile bodies, Jack Maggs performs a postcolonial cartography that blurs notion of maps and how they represent the bodies of people, texts, and nations.