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y separately published work icon JASAL periodical issue   peer reviewed assertion
Alternative title: Dirt
Issue Details: First known date: 2020... vol. 20 no. 1 2020 of JASAL est. 2002 JASAL
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This issue brings together four different sections, each of which speaks to a different aspect of JASAL and its aims, both as an academic journal and as the main publication of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. Although primarily a peer-reviewed journal, JASAL has always attempted to reach beyond a strictly academic audience. The journal is open access and so is available to anyone interested in Australian literature, whether or not they are associated with a university library. Similarly, ‘Notes & Furphies’ is a non peer-reviewed section that invites research notes and comments on Australian literature and literary culture from general readers. In this issue we have a fantastically detailed set of notes from independent scholar Alan Thompson on how we might go about mapping the setting of chapter 3 of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life. Since its first issue in 1994 JASAL has also been the main location for the publication of papers from the ASAL annual conference and ASAL mini-conferences. This issue contains a Special Section, guest edited by Tony Hughes d’Aeth, with a selection of papers from the ASAL’s 2019 annual conference, DIRT, held at the University of Western Australia last July. Finally, JASAL has maintained a commitment to publishing extensive reviews of scholarly works on or related to Australian literature. In this issue we have five reviews of recent works of literary criticism.' (Ellen Smith and Tony Simoes Da Silva : Introduction)


* Contents derived from the 2020 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
The Function of Knowledge and Contingent Difficulty in the Poetry of John Forbes, Aidan Coleman , single work criticism

'The poet John Forbes (1950-1998) was famous for his erudition, but it is a feature of his work that has long been overlooked. Outlining how knowledge functions in Forbes’ poetics and compositional process, I argue for foregrounding this knowledge content in readings of his work, before modelling sustained readings of the erudition of two of Forbes’ best-known poems, ‘Stalin’s Holidays’ and ‘Ars Poetica’. These readings focus on the experience of contingent difficulty – that category of difficulty, according to George Steiner, that finds its source in a reader’s lack of knowledge – and the role that research, or ‘homework’ (26), plays in the reading process. While acknowledging that Steiner’s contingent difficulties are intertwined with – and sometimes created by – other categories of difficulty, this article argues for the productiveness of such ‘homework’ early in the interpretative process. Steiner likens contingent difficulties to ‘burrs on the fabric of the text’ (27). I extend this metaphor to propose that contingent difficulties, in their tactile, grip-like quality, enable a reader to engage with a difficult poem, and to proceed with exegesis, when the difficulties the poem otherwise presents seem insurmountable.' (Publication abstract)

Agricultural Catastrophes : Revising Settler Belonging and the Farming Novel in Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, Jack Kirne , single work criticism

'This article details how Carrie Tiffany’s 2005 novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living poses a series of significant challenges to both non-Indigenous Australian belonging and the teleology of the settler-colonial farm novel. I argue that Tiffany provides a conceptual space for thinking the history of Australia differently, while responding to the farm novel that emerged with different traditions in Australasia, North America and southern Africa in the first half of the 20th century (Hughes-d’Aeth 207). Specifically, I examine how Tiffany deploys agricultural catastrophes to destabilise the ideology of progress as a technology for claiming land under the dictum of proper use, consequently bringing the justifications for colonial domination into contest.' (Publication abstract)

More Than ‘Rotten Apples’ : Australian Literature and the Possibility of Redemption for Men Who Abuse, Daniel Moss , single work criticism

'Popular analyses of gendered violence focus on the need for an individually-focussed approach to the problem which calls for greater responsibility and accountability for individual men. Men who use violence are often viewed as bad apples; or as deviant to the moral codes which are necessary in a moral society. But contemporary Australian authors examine the socio-cultural, political and economic structures that promulgate inequality according to gender, class, age and culture. This inequality manifests in the gendered violence which Christos Tsiolkas, Richard Flanagan, Charlotte Wood, Zoe Morrison and Sofie Laguna portray as a product of neo-liberalism. The men within their fiction are affected by disconnection and individualism within our neo-liberal, patriarchal society. The male protagonists are subjects of, as well as producers of dominant practices of masculinity. Equally, their female characters are not merely passive victims of gendered power as they protest against and challenge the structures that support inequality. Through post-structural analyses which leaves room for contradiction and nuance within characters, these contemporary Australian authors are able to maintain hope for difference and redemption in the lives of men who use violence and abuse, and the women and children who are affected. They consciously avoid separating people in to categories of good or evil, or just and unjust, given that these dichotomies are central to the patriarchal and capitalistic systems of individuality and competition which they critique.' (Publication abstract) 

Bobbin Up as Social Reproduction Text, Dougal McNeill , single work criticism

'Reading Dorothy Hewett's Bobbin Up (1959) with the tools provided by recent advances in social reproduction theory, this essay suggests that Hewett's text develops a richer and more sophisticated account of the relations between waged and unwaged labour than previous materialist critics have acknowledged. In turn, it reads Bobbin Up for the ways Hewett's fiction can provide insights for social reproduction theorists. Hewett's novel, this essay argues, builds a specifically social-reproduction poetics.' (Publication abstract)

[Review] Brigid Magner, Locating Australian Literary Memory, Anne Pender , single work review
— Review of Locating Australian Literary Memory Brigid Magner , 2019 multi chapter work criticism ;
'What is the Australian literary memory? And what are the appropriate signifiers of a collective memory? Why do we often shun our literary heritage? Why are we so blind, contrary and eccentric in the ways we choose or fail to choose to commemorate our literary history in Australia? It has always seemed odd to me, in such a materialistic country, that so little remains of our authors in their regions, towns and in the cities, and that there is so little literary tourism. However, we are not without memorial spaces and monuments, but whether an author is remembered seems a chancy business in this country. It seems to have very little to do with calibre, reputation and much more to do with the vagaries of local council politics and community sentiment. For example, Judith Wright has a small but inspiring native garden named after her in the centre of Armidale, but there is nothing else in the New England region in the way of physical markers, to remember her origins, presence or contribution to literature and Australian life.' (Introduction)
[Review] Climate and Crises : Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse, Antonio Jose Simoes Da Silva , single work
— Review of Climate and Crises : Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse Ben Holgate , 2019 multi chapter work criticism ;
'Ben Holgate’s Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse (2019) makes an important contribution to scholarship on the interplay between culture and society, with a distinct focus on the representation of the effects of human occupation of the natural world. It is a work of outstanding scholarship, meticulously researched and attentive to each novel’s distinct cultural, political and aesthetic frameworks. Although he disputes its central premise, Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) both impels and haunts Holgate’s thinking. Ghosh lamented novelists’ failure to recognise and address the impact of climate change. In words quoted in Holgate, he wrote: ‘the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture and a crisis of imagination.’ Where Holgate’s thinking differs is in his view that while this may the case with ‘the conventional realist structure of the British, European or American novel’ (6), ‘magical realist fiction and environmental literature have a long tradition of overlapping’ (1). This study is concerned with examining that overlap in a series of close readings of selected works by authors from Australia, New Zealand, India, China and Taiwan. It examines ‘not only how magical realism is a natural ally of environmental literature but also why magical realism is a dynamic, constantly evolving narrative mode that can address the challenges of imagination posed by the crisis of climate change’ (8–9).' (Introduction)
[Review] Literary Festivals and Contemporary Book Culture, Mark Houlahan , single work review
Cathy Perkins. The Shelf Life of Zora Cross, Adelle Sefton-Rowston , single work review
— Review of The Distribution of Settlement : Appropriation and Refusal in Australian Literature and Culture Michael R. Griffiths , 2018 multi chapter work criticism ;
'Once a week for two years, I caught the bus from West End to Teneriffe in Brisbane for French classes, stepping off at Skyring Terrace near the new Gasworks Plaza. I was terrible at French and never did my homework, but I persisted out of a lifelong dream of writing in Paris. When I picked up Cathy Perkins’s The Shelf Life of Zora Cross, I realised that I was walking a street with a literary connection: Skyring was the surname of writer Zora Cross’s grandfather.' (Introduction)
DIRT - Introduction to 2019 ASAL Conference Issue, Tony Hughes-d'Aeth , single work essay
'On Sunday 24 May 2020, the Rio Tinto mining company destroyed a 46,000-year-old human habitation and sacred site at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara (‘Rio Tinto blast destroys 46,000-yearold Aboriginal heritage site’). UNESCO compared the act to the destruction of Palmyra by Islamic State. Rio was granted permission to conduct this and other blasts in 2013, under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act. Amongst artefacts found recently at the site were a 24,000- year-old bone tool and a fragment of a 4,000-year-old belt plaited from human hair. The following week, on Thursday 4 June, in a suburban street in the marginal Federal seat of EdenMonaro which had been chosen as the location for the Federal Government to announce a home renovation subsidy, the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison was interrupted in midstream by a miffed home-owner asking the gaggle of politicians and press to move off his lawn as he had just had it re-seeded (‘Get off the grass, homeowner tells Scott Morrison’). They meekly complied, realising that there was a certain sanctity in this quiet Australian’s request. There is an obvious obscenity in putting together these two events but at some level they are indicative of what we were aiming to interrogate at the 2019 ASAL conference on the theme of ‘Dirt,’ which we hosted at the University of Western Australia. As the convenor, I was delighted with the way the conference drew together such a rich range of papers, discussions, addresses, readings and launches. In our thinking about a conference theme we had wanted to explore the way Australian literature and Australian literary studies were working in the contemporary moment and we settled suddenly on the concept of ‘dirt.’ The idea was proposed by my colleague, Alison Bartlett, and our organising committee were immediately taken with it as a concept. It seemed to touch on something essential—in an era sceptical of essences—and material. It reached out into the contested condition of Australian land: dirt as country, dirt as real estate. It reached out into the substance of life: dirt as biotic habitat. It reached out into the source of Australia’s material prosperity: dirt as ore (pay-dirt), dirt as agricultural growing medium (soil). And it reached out into the negative connotation that dirt carries: dirt as scandal, as secret, as abject exclusion.'


‘I Am a Chthonic Poet’ : Fay Zwicky and the Writing under the Writing, Lucy Dougan , single work criticism
'It is important for me to be standing here on this particular day because I feel like it is a kind of bridge. By a strange and wonderful piece of happenstance, today—July 3rd—lies between Fay’s birth date on 4 July 1933 (an auspicious date for an Americanist to have come into the world) and the date she died—2 July 2017. And I am going to be thinking about bridges today—bridges between what is on the public record and what is hidden, bridges between poetry and prose, bridges between interiority (the buried life of the imagination) and the artifact (what surfaces from that imagination), bridges from one writer’s (or artist’s) work to another, and bridges between the living and the dead.' (Introduction)
'Trouble on the Rocks' : Down and Dirty in Dorothy Porter's Verse Novels, Peter Kirkpatrick , single work criticism
Of Witches and Monsters, the Filth and the Fury : Two Australian Women’s Post-Punk Autobiographies, Margaret Henderson , single work criticism

'By performing a feminist textual analysis of these two autobiographies, I examine the nature of the intersections between the putative liberations for women afforded by punk and post-punk music, and autobiography as a textual performance of the self. In addition, a reading of these autobiographies enables me to address questions of national context. I argue that, in an echo of Julian Temple’s ferocious documentary of the Sex Pistols, The Filth and the Fury, the characteristically punk thematics of filth and fury enable these autobiographies to narrate the narrators’ rejection of, and consequent sense of monstrosity in relation to, conventional Australian femininity and the rock industry. Filth, in terms of abject and excessive elements, personae, and processes characterising the punk self, and fury, as this subject’s central type of affect, are means to articulate the making and unmaking of the female musician’s self as monstrous. Analogous to their stage work, Amphlett’s and Horne’s textual selves recruit and exploit a typically masculine set of codes to perform a novel subject of music: the female post-punk singer. Both Amphlett and Horne thereby write in a fraught space—an industry just starting to admit women in less conventional terms—to write a liminal self: one partly created by myths—some self-created, others externally imposed.'

"By No Stretch . . .a Locus Amoenus"— Traces of Dirt in the Early Poetry of James McAuley, Jean Page , single work criticism

'Western mythology traditionally offered sparse, negative readings of things related to earth, as a prison-like entity guarded by the god Hades (Cirlot, Grillet). This paper traces motifs of dirt and soil in several early poems by James McAuley (1917-76). “Envoi” (1938), an inland landscape from McAuley’s stay in Bungendore, rural NSW, attributes to the “soil, the season and the shifting airs” the “faint sterility that disheartens and derides.” Similarly, “The Tomb of Heracles” (1947-49) reiterates motifs of aridity and sterility in imagery of dry landscape: “Blind light, dry rock, a tree that does not bear.” Nonetheless, a differentiation occurs in “Envoi,” in introducing the motif of suppressed fertility and “good chance” in the “artesian heart,” in which earth is reluctantly recognised as the eventual, vital water bearer.

'This paper traces the important formative influence of T.S. Eliot, notably “The Waste Land” and Australia’s own agency of modernism the Jindyworobak movement, with its original environmental manifesto (1937) and celebration of Australia’s dry interiors and indigenous values. It traces other, desolate encounters with earth in McAuley’s war-time reading of early Portuguese chronicles of voyage reflected in his explorer poem “Henry the Navigator” (1944)— “These roots of stunted bushes scrabble earth/Like withered birds […].” The poem adverts to later European “discovery” of Australia’s reportedly arid coasts. 

'The paper also identifies the return to a more accepting reading of motifs of dry earth-scapes “Harsh, dry, abrasive, spikey, rough” in  McAuley’s later poems depicting the Coles Bay nature reserve in eastern Tasmania: “By no stretch [..] a locus amoenus” (Bush Scene”, 1974).'  (Publication abstract)

The Anzac Legend Didn't Mention Mud, Richard Nile , single work criticism

'John Schumann's song 'I was only Nineteen' contains the line 'The Anzac Legend didn't mention Mud,' which might be reasonably read as the dirt music of Australian literary responses to the Great War of 1914-1918. This article argues that Leonard Mann's 1932 novel Flesh in Armour is both an exception and indicative novel of Australian wartime experiences on the Western Front. Contaminated mud features as a persistent metaphor of abjection. Yet the sacralised beach and rocky outcrops of Gallipoli and the desert sands of the Middle East had the effect of obscuring the filth and tragedy of war in the trenches and across no-man's land. The article compares E P F Lynch's Somme Mud and Frederic Manning's The Middle Parts of Fortune with Flesh in Armour and speculates on influences emanating from Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.'  (Publication abstract)

Mapping Joseph Furphy’s Riverina—Yooringa, Alan Thompson , single work criticism
'In this essay, I chronicle my attempt to produce an accurate topographical map of the setting for Chapter III of Joseph Furphy’s Such Is Life and the route that the novel’s narrator and main protagonist Tom Collins follows through that landscape. I also set out my attempts to map the ‘exact locality’ of this setting within the real world of the Riverina, beyond Tom’s evasive admission that ‘it was somewhere between Echuca and Albury’ (SIL 82/102).1 Of course, it is not entirely necessary to fully answer these questions to be able to broadly follow the events that take place in Chapter III. Nevertheless, while the intricacies of the landscape are not immediately obvious from a cursory reading, it is evident from Furphy’s judicious and precise placement of numerous topographical and geolocational markers or clues within the text (notwithstanding Tom’s often seemingly fumbling attempts to conceal them), that he (Furphy) probably intended the ‘observant reader’ (SIL 2/2) to use these clues as signposts in order to form a detailed picture of location and landscape; or, perhaps, more in line with the wider themes of Such Is Life, he meant to lure him or her into such an attempt. I felt I owed it to Furphy to accept his challenge and try to ‘shift some of my inborn ignorance’ (SIL 128/159).'

 (Publication abstract)

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