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Australian Classics (ENGL2055)
Semester 1 / 2014

Texts

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 Coonardoo : The Well in the Shadow Katharine Susannah Prichard , 1928 Z1081769 1928 single work novel (taught in 39 units) Set in North-West of Western Australia, it describes life on cattle stations and the relationship between the white owner of the station and Coonardoo, an Aboriginal woman.
y separately published work icon The Scent of Eucalyptus Barbara Hanrahan , London : Chatto and Windus , 1973 Z521233 1973 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

'Barbara Hanrahan was both a writer and a visual artist, and this magical first novel is an autobiographical evocation of her childhood. A delicious blend of fantasy and realism, it is a powerful, lyrical story of a child's rites of passage through a world where the family home, its garden, and the three women who preside over it, area vital and compelling participants in the shaping of a child's rituals of discovery and awareness.' (UQP)

y separately published work icon The Getting of Wisdom Henry Handel Richardson , London : Heinemann , 1910 Z901329 1910 single work novel (taught in 25 units)

'A coming-of-age story of a spontaneous heroine who finds herself ensconced in the rigidity of a turn-of-the-century boarding school. The clever and highly imaginative Laura has difficulty fitting in with her wealthy classmates and begins to compromise her ideals in her search for popularity and acceptance.' (From the publisher's website.)

Description

This course analyses some key examples of Australian literature and film that have come to be regarded as 'classics'. The course sets literature and film in its original context, examining the social function it might have served for its original audience. In addition, students examine the construction of literary and filmic canons, and ask why these texts attained status as Australian 'classics'. There is an emphasis on how literature and film deals with tensions and conflicts in Australian culture - for both original and subsequent audiences.

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