Category: Oz Lit

Week 1: The Mountain Has Its Own Meaning

Today we explored the meaning of this wonderfully suggestive line from Judith Wright’s poem “Rockface”. Judith Wright’s line picks up a core theme in Australian Literature from the earliest days of colonization through to our own times: what is our attitude to the Australian landscape? Is it utilitarian and appropriative? Or is it open to…

Literature in Spring 2018

Hi All, this semester I am teaching Australian Literature to first years (with long-time colleague Elaine Lindsay): You can listen to Elaine in an interview she had on ABC radio recently with novelist Tom Keneally: I am also teaching Twentieth Century Literature to second years and The Visionary Imagination (William Blake, Patrick White and Brett…

Francis Webb Seminar 1- Aquinas Academy07/02/2017

Today’s session explored the complex background to Francis Webb’s powerful creative imagination. We looked first at “On First Hearing a Cuckoo”, partly inspired by Frederick Delius’ On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring.  Here is a reading of the poem and the conversation that ensued:  The seminar then moved on to explore two of Webb’s early poems…

Top 19th Century Lit ePortfolios ACU 2016

There were some truly outstanding ePortfolios in this group of ACU students celebrating their experience and insight into the work of Romantic poets and the fiction of Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Tolstoy among others. The focus questions underpinning these ePortfolios were Writers and artists in the 19th Century were preoccupied with trying to solve the…

Twentieth Century Oz Lit Poetry and Prose Part 2

This week we finished our exploration of Patrick White’s amazing depiction of contemporary Australian society: its emptiness, but also its powerful potential for renewal in “Down at the Dump” and “Miss Slattery’s Demon Lover”- both in The Burnt Ones (1964). As a prelude to David Malouf‘s visit to us in a fortnight we explored “The Year of the Foxes”,…

Australian Poetry and Prose in the Early 20th Century

We had fun today exploring a range of authors: John Shaw Neilson, Miles Franklin, Frederic Manning, M.Barnard Eldershaw, Judith Wright, Rosemary Dobson, Francis Webb and Gwen Harwood. What an amazing cross-section of talent! The one strongest idea that came to me during the lecture was a question that arose after we pondered the meaning of A.D.Hope’s…

Mid 19th Century Australian Poetry

What a wonderful contrast is made by Charles Harpur’s “A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest” (1851) and Henry Kendall’s “Bell-Birds” (1869). Kendall as a protegé of Harpur invested his picture of the Australian forest – “Bell Birds“- with meaning and magic, but his purpose was entirely opposite to that of his master (Harpur). This…

Week 2 Summer/Autumn Semester

Another fabulous week of literature and life! I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring Kim Scott’s That Dead Man Dance with Oz Lit students today. This is an amazing work that really brings to life an indigenous experience of life in relation to landscape and everything in it. It does this so powerfully through the sharp contrast…

BEST ePortfolio/Blogs SPRING 2015

Hello All, I want to share with you this amazing list of the best ePortfolio/blogs produced by ACU students during the second half of 2015. For their ePortfolios they had to showcase their best Creative and Critical Blogs, their Peer Reviews of others in the group, and they had to answer a broad question on…

David Malouf- Fly Away Peter

In today’s lecture we spent time exploring the last few pages of this amazing novel Fly Away Peter. Malouf’s creativity is so attuned to his characters’ inner experience that it is very hard not to be deeply moved by what his characters experience. This is the power of his creative skill, shaping sentences, phrases, images to draw…

Oz Poetry in the later 20th Century

Today we covered a huge range of Oz writers: Rosemary Dobson, Francis Webb, Gwen Harwood, David Malouf (his poetry), Barbara Hanrahan, Les Murray, Michael Dransfield, Yahia Al-Samaway, Kevin Hart, Judith Beveridge, Kate Grenville and finally Chi Vu (her “A Psychic Guide”). Rosemary Dobson’s amazing Ekphrastic poem “Child with a Cockatoo” (based on a painting by…

William Blake in Sydney: Blake’s “Job” in the NSW Art Gallery; Brett Whiteley’s “Grain of Sand” in Surry Hills.

What a fabulous connection was made today with creative genius at its source in William Blake’s (1828) original engravings for The Book of Job (1828)  at the Art Gallery of NSW and in Brett Whiteley’s creative masterpiece Alchemy (1971-1972), displayed in the actual Studio occupied by Brett Whiteley during the last years of his life: So it…

Francis Webb Commemorative Reading of his Poetry- this Saturday 12 September, 2015.

Hi all, this Saturday afternoon, if you live near Chatswood you might take yourselves off up to the Willoughby Library where there is a special commemorative event on the poet Francis Webb. I will be leading off the readings and discussions since I am the biographer of Francis Webb and have been asked to say…

Late Colonialism in Australian Literature and Art

What a feast of writers and artists we have been digesting in this last week (Page references are to the Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature):

Ada Cambridge with her wonderfully strident defiance of being a simpering woman subject to male domination. Defying all stereotypes she speaks to her lover: “I may some day love a better man…. And then we must be free to kiss and part” (164). No wonder she was seen as rebellious in her day!

Then we looked at the Über-rebellious Irish Ned Kelly who certainly could string words together when he wanted to make a point about those for whom he had a particular hate (those representatives of the British legal system): “the big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords which is better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police…” (224) and much more!

Then there was Dame Mary Gilmore, one of the few in this period who had a passionate regard for our Indigenous people and a real sense of what we as a community have lost by not taking care of them. Her poem “Australia” is a magnificent tribute to the ancient value of this people (predating all the most ancient civilizations) and containing within their culture the seeds of the beginning of language and poetry:

There was great beauty in the names her people called her,

Shaping to patterns of sound the form of their words;

They wove to measure of speech the cry of the bird,

And the voices that rose from the reeds of the cowal*.

(*Aboriginal word for small, tree-grown swampy depression)


So in their traditions and culture they transformed and transmitted the beautiful voices of nature into song, into language.

We looked also at Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson and Barbara Baynton, those authors who, in various ways, transformed the experience of Australian settlers into story and song.

And all this was done in the context of our increasing awareness of the iconic art of Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin, Julian Ashton and others…. what a treat!

Blog Topics for Week 6


  1. “And then we must be free to kiss and part”. Write a short letter or poem that proclaims the kind of personal freedom that Ada Cambridge proposes in this line.

2. Write a brief description of this painting of Ned Kelly. What do you think it is saying about Ned Kelly’s status in the 20th CenturySaint Ned

3. Write a short tribute to Dame Mary Gilmore drawing on any one of her poems (in the Pen Anthology 256-259) to show how important her ideas are to Australians.

4. Find out who the figure behind Dame Mary Gilmore is on the $10 note. What is the artistic significance of this other figure?

5. Henry Lawson or Banjo Paterson? Explain briefly your understanding of why these two authors were so different in their views of the Australian experience.

” They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone/ That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown”(263)

“There was movement at the station , for the word had passed around…” (246)

6. Create your own topic, basing it around any one of the authors or painters looked at in the Late Colonial section of the unit and linking it to your own personal experience.


And now for the Grand Finale (of this first trawl through Literature Blogs)!

Please find here links to the best third year blogs. These students, most in their third year of literature, are studying “The Visionary Imagination” with a focus on William Blake, Patrick White and David Malouf. Let’s hear a round of applause for the following stars all who got full, or close to full marks!! Emma…

Early Colonialism in Australia

My Hero: Charles Harpur Frank the Poet, Matthew Flinders, Barron Field, Charles Sturt, Eliza Dunlop, Charles Harpur, Henry Kendall, Louisa Anne Meredith, Catherine Helen Spence…. what a great line-up for early colonial Australian writers! These writers revealed many of the core features of the early colonial era: the strange way in which the flora and…

Most Promising First Year Blogs

HI All, here are links to the most promising first year (Oz Lit) Blogs. Enjoy some of this amazing creativity!

Oz Lit Week 2: Bobby Wabalanginy Fights Back!

We had a fabulous time exploring the core differences between the way indigenous Australians and European intruders experience the world around them. Kim Scott has done a fabulous job in using language that in its texture indicates the kinds of experience that his characters have. As a blog topic for next week,  Try to describe…

Welcome to Spring Semester, students in: Oz Lit, Twentieth Century & Visionary Blake

l am very much looking forward to working with you all in these three fabulous units. Oz Lit (otherwise known as Australian Literature) will take us on an amazing tour of the creativity produced in this, our, country over the past 200 years and more… Twentieth Century will engage us with the literature from around…