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Contemporary Australian Literature (ENGL3460)


y separately published work icon Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1997 Z104794 1997 single work novel (taught in 23 units)

'In this brilliant debut novel, Alexis Wright evokes city and outback, deepening our understanding of human ambition and failure, and making the timeless heart and soul of this country pulsate on the page. Black and white cultures collide in a thousand ways as Aboriginal spirituality clashes with the complex brutality of colonisation at St Dominic's mission. With her political awareness raised by work with the city-based Aboriginal Coalition, Mary visits the old mission in the northern Gulf country, place of her mother's and grandmother's suffering. Mary's return reignites community anxieties, and the Council of Elders again turn to their spirit world.' (From the publisher's website.)

y separately published work icon Home Larissa Behrendt , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2004 Z1113719 2004 single work novel (taught in 10 units)

'A story of homecoming, this absorbing novel opens with a young, city-based lawyer setting out on her first visit to ancestral country. Candice arrives at "the place where the rivers meet", the camp of the Eualeyai where in 1918 her grandmother Garibooli was abducted. As Garibooli takes up the story of Candice's Aboriginal family, the twentieth century falls away.

Garibooli, renamed Elizabeth, is sent to work as a housemaid, but marriage soon offers escape from the terror of the master's night-time visits. Her displacement carries into the lives of her seven children - their stories witness to the impact of orphanage life and the consequences of having a dark skin in post-war Australia. Vividly rekindled, the lives of her family point the direction home for Candice.

Home is a ... novel from an author who understands both the capacity of language to suppress and the restorative potency of stories that bridge past and present.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

y separately published work icon True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z668312 2000 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 29 units)

'"I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false."

'In TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semi-literate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.' (From the publisher's website.)

y separately published work icon Loaded Christos Tsiolkas , Milsons Point : Vintage Australia , 1995 Z565443 1995 single work novel (taught in 40 units)

'Families can detonate. Some families are torn apart forever by one small act, one solitary mistake. In my family it was a series of small explosions; consistent, passionate, pathetic. Cruel words, crude threats... We spurred each other on till we reached a crescendo of pain and we retired exhausted to our rooms, in tears or in fury.

'Ari is nineteen, unemployed and a poofter who doesn't want to be gay. He is looking for something - anything - to take him away from his aimless existence in suburban Melbourne. He doesn't believe in anyone or anything, except the power of music. All he wants to do is dance, take drugs, have sex and change the world.

'For Ari, all the orthodoxies of family, sex, politics and work have collapsed. Caught between the traditional Greek world of his parents and friends and the alluring, destructive world of clubs, chemicals and anonymous sex, all Ari can do is ease his pain in the only ways he knows how.

'Written in stark, uncompromising prose, Loaded is a first novel of great passion and power.' (From the publisher's website.)

y separately published work icon Journey to the Stone Country Alex Miller , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2002 Z982836 2002 single work novel (taught in 3 units) 'Betrayed by her husband, Annabelle Beck retreats from Melbourne to her old family home in tropical North Queensland where she meets Bo Rennie, one of the Jangga tribe. Intrigued by Bo's claim that he holds the key to her future, Annabelle sets out with him on a path of recovery that leads back to her childhood and into the Jangga's ancient heartland, where their grandparents' lives begin to yield secrets that will challenge the possibility of their happiness together.' - Publisher's blurb.
y separately published work icon Cloudstreet Tim Winton , Melbourne : McPhee Gribble , 1991 Z204365 1991 single work novel (taught in 16 units) 'From separate catastrophes two rural families flee to the city and find themselves sharing a great, breathing, shuddering joint called Cloudstreet, where they begin their lives again from scratch. For twenty years they roister and rankle, laugh and curse until the roof over their heads becomes a home for their hearts.' (Source: Publisher's website)
y separately published work icon Camille's Bread Amanda Lohrey , Pymble : Angus and Robertson , 1995 Z566183 1995 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

'After too many nights of takeaway pizzas, Marita wants just one year off to look after her daughter, Camille. Then she meets Stephen, a public servant in the complex process of reinventing himself, training as a shiatsu masseur. As their relationship grows, so does the drama of parenting Camille, in this elegantly crafted, warmly appealing novel of contemporary Australian life.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (HarperCollins).

y separately published work icon The Service of Clouds Delia Falconer , Sydney : Picador , 1997 Z406749 1997 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 1 units) The Blue Mountains of Australia. Eureka Jones, a young pharmacist's assistant with 'historical eyes', falls in love with Harry Kitchings, a man who comes to town from some vague elsewhere to photograph clouds and the shadows they cast upon the land.
y separately published work icon The Hunter Julia Leigh , Ringwood : Penguin , 1999 Z129151 1999 single work novel (taught in 23 units) 'An unnamed man, M, arrives at a remote house on the fringe of a vast wilderness and soon disappears into a world of silence and stillness. His one mission: to find the last thylacine, the fabled Tasmanian tiger. She is said to have passed into myth but a sighting has been reported... Uncompromising and compelling, Julia Leigh's stunning first novel does not give up any of its secrets easily. The Hunter is a haunting tale of obsession that builds to an unforgettable conclusion.'
Source: Libraries Australia (Sighted 18/03/2011).
'While on his mission, the hunter lodges with a grief-ridden family of outcasts whose father has mysteriously vanished after sighting the Thylacine. The hunter succumbs more than he'd like to the family's scant charms and when tragedy strikes has to further purge his psyche to focus upon his elusive quarry. There is something tantalizing at large here as well as the mythical beast in this soul-stalking story about a group of doomed creatures whose unfortunate extinction is never really in doubt.' - Reviewed by Chris Packham, naturalist and broadcaster
Source: British Union Catalogue (Sighted 14/10/2011)


Examines recent writing of fiction in Australia from 1990 to the present. It covers a range of genres, including novel, short story, autobiography and metafiction, and explores the tension between postmodernism and politics in the field through an examination of the discourses of gender, class, race and sexuality in each text.


Students will gain:

1. a detailed knowledge of the texts on the course and of the literary field

under examination;

2. the ability to analyse literary texts in their social contexts; and

3. a detailed understanding of the theoretical concepts informing recent shifts in the field.


1. an examination of the diverse generic content of Australian fiction of the last decade;

2. an examination of the relationship between literary text and social context;

3. an examination of the consistent tension between postmodernism and;

4. discussion of politics in the period.


1000 word essay, due in semester 25%

3000 word essay, due after semester 65%

Seminar participation 10%

Assessed on the regularity of contribution, level of preparation demonstrated, and quality of response to texts and to the broader discussion

Attendance at seminars is compulsory.

Other Details

Offered in: 2008, 2006, 2004
Levels: Undergraduate