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Australian Literature: Classic and Popular (ENGL2702)
Semester 1 / 2014

Texts

y separately published work icon The Slap Christos Tsiolkas , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2008 Z1739894 2008 single work novel (taught in 40 units)

'At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.

'This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.

'In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

'What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.' (Publisher's blurb)

y separately published work icon Monkey Grip Helen Garner , Melbourne : McPhee Gribble , 1977 Z115661 1977 single work novel (taught in 12 units)

Set in inner suburban 1970s Melbourne, Monkey Grip describes the fluid relationships of a community of friends who are living and loving in new ways. Single parent Nora falls in love with Javo, a heroin addict, and together they try to make sense of their lives and the choices they have made.

y separately published work icon Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Ray Lawler , 1955 London Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1957 Z522838 1955 single work drama (taught in 56 units)

'The most famous Australian play and one of the best loved, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is a tragicomic story of Roo and Barney, two Queensland sugar-cane cutters who go to Melbourne every year during the 'layoff' to live it up with their barmaid girl friends. The title refers to kewpie dolls, tawdry fairground souvenirs, that they brings as gifts and come, in some readings of the play, to represent adolescent dreams in which the characters seem to be permanently trapped. The play tells the story in traditional well-made, realistic form, with effective curtains and an obligatory scene. Its principal appeal – and that of two later plays with which it forms The Doll Trilogy – is the freshness and emotional warmth, even sentimentality, with which it deals with simple virtues of innocence and youthful energy that lie at the heart of the Australian bush legend.

'Ray Lawler’s play confronts that legend with the harsh new reality of modern urban Australia. The 17th year of the canecutters’ arrangement is different. There has been a fight on the canefields and Roo, the tough, heroic, bushman, has arrived with his ego battered and without money. Barney’s girl friend Nancy has left to get married and is replaced by Pearl, who is suspicious of the whole set-up and hopes to trap Barney into marriage. The play charts the inevitable failure of the dream of the layoff, the end of the men’s supremacy as bush heroes and, most poignantly, the betrayal of the idealistic self-sacrifice made by Roo’s girl friend Olive – the most interesting character – to keep the whole thing going. The city emerges victorious, but the emotional tone of the play vindicates the fallen bushman.'

Source: McCallum, John. 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.' Companion to Theatre in Australia. Ed. Philip Parson and Victoria Chance. Sydney: Currency Press , 1997: 564-656.

y separately published work icon The Man Who Loved Children Christina Stead , New York (City) : Simon and Schuster , 1940 Z462160 1940 single work novel (taught in 19 units) 'Sam and Henny Pollit have too many children, too little money, and too much loathing for each other. As Sam uses the children's adoration to feed his own voracious ego, Henny watches in bleak despair, knowing the bitter reality that lies just below his mad visions. A chilling novel of family life, the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives.' (Source: Libraries Australia)
y separately published work icon My Brilliant Career Miles Franklin , Edinburgh London : William Blackwood , 1901 Z161522 1901 single work novel (taught in 56 units)

My Brilliant Career was written by Stella Franklin (1879-1954) when she was just nineteen years old. The novel struggled to find an Australian publisher, but was published in London and Edinburgh in 1901 after receiving an endorsement from Henry Lawson. Although Franklin wrote under the pseudonym 'Miles Franklin', Lawson’s preface makes it clear that Franklin is, as Lawson puts it 'a girl.'

The novel relates the story of Sybylla Melvyn, a strong-willed young woman of the 1890s growing up in the Goulburn area of New South Wales and longing to be a writer.

Description

This unit is designed to increase students' understanding of Australian literature and film, of Australian literary tradition, and of the process of generic classification. The unit includes the study of texts across the variously 'high' and 'popular' spheres of culture, focusing on the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. The unit explores Australian drama, fiction, cinema and poetry, the relationship of these forms to the social, aesthetic and cultural values of their period, and the way in which perception of them has changed over time. It looks at the way that literary texts have been valued in Australia and continue to be valued in different ways.

Supplementary Texts

My Brilliant Career DVD

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