Oscar Wilde and Victorianism

It has been so good to look back at all the features of Victorianism from the end of the century perspective provided by Oscar Wilde! I wonder how the Wilde of 2090 will review the shenanigans of the first decades of the 21st century? An interesting speculation! At all events, with Wilde’s hindsight one can…

Romeo & Juliet- Bell Shakespeare

This would have to be one of the liveliest, most powerful productions of Romeo and Juliet! Congratulations to the director, Peter Evans and the whole cast who brought the inner significance of this play so vividly, so entertainingly alive. In his pre-performance interview Peter Evans had spoken about the vitality of Juliet as a character. And Kelly…

End of Week 3: The Importance of Being Earnest: A Backward Glance at the Nineteenth Century.

What a buzz for us all to see The Importance of Being Earnest performed by an utterly world-class production by the National Theatre of London. David Suchet as Lady Bracknell would have to be one of the most GROTESQUE stage presences we have seen in a long time And this hard angular, masculine, pompous, utterly self-important…

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…

Welcome to Literature & Life 2016

This semester I am running four units: Australian Literature (on Campus & at Mount Druitt with a group of Clemente students); Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature and Nineteenth Century Literature (Revolutions in Writing).  I will be posting regular blogs into this WordPress site in each of these units under the category names that you can see…

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…

Language, Race and Culture : 2

Marlene Nourbes Philip and Salman Rushdie are both committed to expressing the ways in which writers can express freedom through both embracing aspects of the culture they are living in and holding onto the narratives, the modes of thinking of their own cultures. Marlene in her “Discourse on the Logic of Language” powerfully dramatizes the…

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…

George Orwell Language and Politics

The key question we explored today was the link between Orwell’s view of the corruption of language in his essay “Politics and the English Language” and his tirade against the forces deliberately corrupting language in his dystopian novel 1984. Is there any kind of link between Orwell’s observations about the uses and abuses of language in these two…

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…

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: The Bible of Hell

I have also: The Bible of Hell: which the world shall have whether they will or no. For Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell occurs when the sanctimonious, commandment-loving Angel finally gives up his/her smug sense of superiority and happily embraces the flames of fire and joins the Devil’s party, a party which believes in the presence…

Twentieth Century Week 5: Modernism and Contemporary Art, NSW Art Gallery.

Thank you all for making our visit purposeful and entertaining. It always amazes me how many connection we can find together between the literature and the art of any particular period. Most amazing was that work by the Indian artist Jitish Kallat “Public Notice 2” (2007) that filled both sides of the main entrance hall to the gallery.…

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! https://morganjessie.wordpress.com/ https://annemariedimarco.wordpress.com/ https://benbotella.wordpress.com https://lauranema1.wordpress.com/ https://amarienguyen.wordpress.com https://asiyatrad.wordpress.com/ https://caitlyntuckerman.wordpress.com https://ninarwalker.wordpress.com

The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell

The song “End of the Night” by The Doors was directly inspired by Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” especially the lines “Realms of bliss, realms of light, some are borne to sweet delight, some are borne to sweet delight, some are borne to the endless night.” Listen to the Doors singing “End of the Night” here. William Blake takes…

William Blake – Week 2

William Blake was a radical in countless ways: political, religious, personal. He dared to confront and question received knowledge and forced his readers then and now to ask questions about the nature of God, the Universe and everything in it. Among many aspects of his creative life we explored closely today this contrasting vision of…

Mistah Kurtz- he dead.

We had really good conversations today on the question of whether Conrad was a racist or not. Your thoughts seemed very much in the balance on this question. But I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. His main focus is on the “Darkness” at the heart of contemporary civilisation with its exploitative cast…

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…