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y separately published work icon JASAL periodical issue   peer reviewed assertion
Alternative title: Australian Literature / World Literature : Borders, Skins, Mappings
Issue Details: First known date: 2015... vol. 15 no. 3 2015 of JASAL est. 2002 JASAL
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* Contents derived from the 2015 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Burning Our Boats, Suvendrini Perera , single work criticism

'The burning of boats, that classic figure for the impossibility of return, was, for over a decade a practice routinely staged by the Australian state as a form of ‘deterrence’ against other unwanted entrants – even as it served, for those just landed, to confirm the finality of their arrival. More recently, this official “torching rite” of no return meets its counterpart in the bizarre logic of the “orange lifeboat,” where asylum seekers are forcibly turned back to an uncertain fate aboard unsinkable, air-conditioned capsules.

'This paper considers questions of arrival, departure and refugee and diasporic subjectivities in the context of Australian refugee policy. Some readers may notice in my subtitle an allusion to V.S. Naipaul’s memoir, The Enigma of Arrival, but more immediate to my concerns is Amitav Ghosh’s articulation of a distinction between exodus and dispersal narratives. Whereas narratives of exodus fix their gaze on the shore of arrival, Ghosh suggests, dispersal compels a return to the pain of rupture and the movement of departure: the sting of smoke evermore in our eyes from our burning possessions; before us, the steady flaming of our boats.

'Marking Stuart Hall’s indispensable theorizing of diasporic subjectivities in the wake of his passing earlier this year, I ask how refugee and disapora bodies and subjects are made and unmade in the context of the Australian borderscape, understood as a set of makeshift, protean geographies of making live and letting die.' (Publication summary)

Afterword, Joseph Pugliese , single work criticism
'At the water’s edge, the ship’s flank is seared open. Wielding acetylene torches, the labourers carve up a ship’s carcass. Rivets pop as the steel melts and yields to the focused flame that tears at its seams. In this graveyard at the water’s edge of Colombo harbour, the ebb and flow of tides bear witness to these processes of systematic dismemberment. This is the scene that opens Suvendrini Perera’s uncompromising analysis of the practices of violence that inscribe the end-journeys of refugees desperately seeking sanctuary as they flee the various hells that make life in their countries of origin unlivable. This scene graphically captures the elemental polarities that bookend Perera’s profoundly moving essay on refugees, diasporic dispersals, urgent flights and failed arrivals: fire and water, life and death. ' (Author's introduction)
The Corpus of the Continent : Embodiments of Australia in World Literature, Vilashini Cooppan , single work criticism

'What is the present status of imagining a continental scale for literature as it denotes something that is neither national, regional, nor global? How does a continental formation such as Australia’s invite a reframing of the national-global dichotomy so constitutive to the methodologies of world literature? Critical regionalisms, worlding, ‘planetary’ poetics, and systems-based and network analyses of culture, history, and literature all offer rich supplements to national-global thinking, as evidenced by recent developments in world literature theory. This paper turns to the category of continent as one that simultaneously conjures territorial place, geological time-scales, indigenous history, colonial projects, and postcolonial national politics and affiliations. How do these various vectors play out in making and remaking a sense of continental identity? In what ways do literary canons inflect this process? Given the function of canons as a memory discourses of a kind, how do the critical politics of memory structure a reading of Australian, African, Indo-Pakistani, European, or hemispheric American ‘continental literature’?

'This paper does not inventory any of these literatures but rather explores how thinking at a continental scale brings into focus particular aspects of a literary corpus: deep historical time, territorial inheritance, ghost presences of those who were here before, necropolitical violence, ecological being and nonanthropocentric relationality, and more. These aspects turn on various corporealizations or embodiments of a continent (land, canon), but they are also deeply indebted to what might be called continental corpses, that is, the dead who still walk the land, still claim their day, still await their incorporation, and still oblige us to confront the traumatic histories of the past. This paper turns to the landscape of memory, as configured in trauma theory, psychoanalytic theory, and memory studies, in order to theorize the category of continental literature as something distinct from, and certainly useful for, world literature.' (Publication abstract)

Seeing the Cosmos : Ross Gibson’s ‘Simultaneous Living Map’, Catherine Noske , single work criticism
'In its reading of the journals of William Dawes, Ross Gibson’s 26 Views of the Starburst World offers a dynamic vision of the world. His entry into the landscape of Sydney Cove is characterised by and constructed according to the multiple ‘views’ of his title, each of which interrelate in various, shifting ways to coalesce into a narrative. The version of place which emerges is both strange and beautiful, challenging constructs of nation which depend on notions of locality and ‘rootedness’. Gibson’s text thus prompts questions of critical practice before place. What can be achieved in taking up a fragmented writing style? This paper investigates the manner in which Gibson reconstructs concepts of place and space in order to challenge contemporary understandings of the Australian nation. It questions whether or not a similar vision of place can be applied in other contexts, and examines the manner in which place comes to be doubled over in the act of reading.' (Publication abstract)
The Law of Storytelling : The Hermeneutics of Relationality in Alexis Wright's The Swan Book, Arnaud Barras , single work criticism
'In this paper I argue that Alexis Wright's novel The Swan Book (2013) establishes a hermeneutics of relationality that complicates the genre of Australian literature by aestheticising its transnational quality. Through the interplay of foreign swan stories told by the European migrant Bella Donna and local country swamp stories embodied in the Aboriginal protagonist Oblivia, Wright questions the origins and nature of Australian literature. In other words, The Swan Book suggests to its readers that Australian literature, from its production to its reception, transgresses national and spatial boundaries. In light of The Swan Book, the genre of Australian literature can no longer be located precisely within the borders of the continent, but has to be understood in relation to the world. In the first part of the essay, I briefly draw on concepts of hermeneutics and relationality to show how the novel creates an interpretive matrix whose function is to enmesh Aboriginal storytelling in Australian literature. In the second part of the essay, I analyse the manifestations of the hermeneutics of relationality, which takes the form of self-reflexive episodes that dramatise the process of interpretation. Ultimately, I argue that self-reflexivity is so powerful in the novel, and that Wright reproduces, varies, corrects and changes the rules and scope of Australian literature to such an extent and with such an aesthetic impact that the story of Oblivion Ethyl(ene) may in effect be the first brush of a horizon change in the literary landscape of Australian literature.' (Publication abstract)
Juxtaposing Australian and Canadian Writing, Fiona Polack , single work criticism

'The geographical entities of Australia and Canada house multifarious localities, regions and nations. Juxtaposing literary work emerging from them can open up invaluable new angles of critical inquiry at a moment when literary scholars in both countries seek insight into the relationship between national literatures and transnational forces.

'Upholding the value of comparing Australian and Canadian literatures is an urgent task at present given that interest in this juxtaposition seems to be diminishing.' (Publication abstract)

Is Prowse’s Rectum a Grave? : Jouissance, Reparative Transnationalism and Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair, Jackson Moore , single work criticism

'This paper argues that the depiction of the character Don Prowse in Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair offers itself as a space of libidinal investment, and in doing so offers readers of this text an opportunity to re-engage with Australia’s nationalist literary tradition. The hyper-masculine Prowse stands as an emblem of Australia’s cultural heritage, as a link to the ubiquitous bushman of the ubiquitous 1890s. But what does it mean when this character, and by extension this literary tradition, are overtly sexualised, when they become desired and objectified by a desiring reader?

'Without erasing the prevalent misogyny and homophobia that attend Australia’s literary past, this paper nevertheless seeks to inaugurate a reparative reading of this past, a reading which disavows a hermeneutics of suspicion in favour of a reparative position which takes jouissance as a potential expression of attachment, desire, even love. Utilising the psychoanalytic frameworks of Eve Sedgwick and Leo Bersani, this paper articulates a new rhetoric of belonging and explores the ramifications of a queer theoretical standpoint in reanimating the relations between self, text, the nation state and the globe.' (Publication summary)

Patrick White's Hungarian Connection, Nourit Melcer-Padon , single work criticism
'Memoirs of Many in One, Patrick White's last novel, is a challenging read. A fragmented plot-line serves to stage a numerous cast of diverse characters, all used to sustain the theatricals of a crazy old woman. Nonetheless, by following the clues White disperses in the text, one can discover a fascinating framework that makes this bread-crumbs-trail well worth the walk. A barely noticeable allusion to the epic poem of Imre Madách, a 19th century Hungarian writer, is the key to the unfolding of a double narrative structure. The master narrative, true to modern, post-structuralist format, is deconstructed and haphazard, whereas the underlying narrative is based on the older literary tradition of the morality play. Similarly, Alex, White's irresponsible and exacerbating protagonist may seem as an unlikely model for contemporary, romantic notions of freedom and self-fulfillment, yet she is used to debunk the very ideals she embodies. Despite her aspirations to selfish stardom, Alex's quest for forgiveness and absolution towards the end of her life is in line with the constitutive narrative of penance. At the same time, White uses his protagonist's journey to expose various European roots that cannot be severed and are still present in Australian culture.' (Publication abstract)
Australians in Aspic : Picturing Charmian Clift's and George Johnston's Expatriation, Tanya Dalziell , Paul Genoni , single work criticism
'This paper considers how the expatriation of Australian authors Charmian Clift and George Johnston on the Greek island of Hydra has been represented photographically in a recently uncovered archive of over 1500 images. The photographs were taken by Life Magazine staff photographer James Burke in the summer of 1960. The analysis of the photographs is juxtaposed at key points with text from Clift's memoir Peel Me a Lotus, and the discussion focuses on the way the interplay between image and text produces supportive and/or contested representations of this particular experience of Australian literary expatriation.' (Publication abstract)
Cosmopolitan Jindyworobak : Flexmore Hudson, Nationalism and World-Mindedness, Jayne Regan , single work criticism
'Poet, editor, and school teacher Flexmore Hudson is best remembered as a long time, if sometimes reluctant, supporter of Rex Ingamells’ Jindyworobak Movement. However, unlike many of his nationalist counterparts, Hudson was interested in internationalism and the encouragement of ‘self-conscious world citizens.’ In 1947 Hudson was writing the educational comic Discovery, which he would later describe as ‘hack work’, in a failed attempt to keep his highbrow magazine Poetry financially afloat. Though Hudson was doubtful of the literary merit of Discovery, both texts show signs of his concerted effort to promote respect and communication between people ‘regardless of their colour, race or religion.’ This paper will use a range of Hudson’s little studied literary output to demonstrate his simultaneous support for ‘world-mindedness’ and the Jindyworobaks. Though this double allegiance yielded tension, Hudson took advantage of the ideological intersection that saw the environment become crucial to both nationalism and new world-minded thinking. Hudson’s overtly ‘placed’ poetry, written while a resident of rural South Australia, resonated with the Jindyworobak call for literary attention to ‘environmental values’ and gave him a curious advantage as an adherent of world-mindedness.' (Publication abstract)
Subaltern Cosmopolitanism : The Question of Hospitality in Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe, Jessica Brooks , single work criticism
'Christos Tsiolkas’ novel Dead Europe (2005) moves beyond the local to discuss the effects of a globalised neo-imperialism and its implications for Australia. Tsiolkas uses a number of spectral metaphors to emphasise the dehumanisation that is the underside of capitalism and to imply that our present is haunted not only by the injustices of a traumatic historical past but also by the injustice that is to come as a result of today’s aggressive neo-imperialisms. As many have recognised, the novel explores a ‘subaltern’ cosmopolitanism of the marginalised and oppressed. Tsiolkas explores the fact that such subaltern cosmopolitanisms reconfigure our experience of alterity under capitalist globalization, in a manner that necessitates a radical reconsideration of our contemporary ethics. As a result the novel raises many ethical questions regarding the global mistreatment of the migrant and asylum seeker. Read through the lens of Derrida’s later political interrogations, we find that Dead Europe considers the ethics of hospitality—what it means to welcome and receive the ‘other’—and explores the economic violence and racial and religious intolerance that is so often behind violations of hospitality. Key to the novel’s exploration of these issues is Tsiolkas’ use of the spectral metaphor of the dead Jewish boy, Elias, who acts as a symbol for the cultural, political, and economic forces that lead to violations of hospitality.' (Publication abstract)
Towards a Multilingual National Literature : The Tung Wah Times and the Origins of Chinese Australian Writing, Zhong Huang , single work criticism
'A large and important body of Australian writing has until now remained excluded from histories and anthologies: literature in languages other than English. A new research project entitled 'New transnationalisms: Australia's multilingual literary heritage' traces the history of Australian writing in Chinese Vietnamese, Arabic and Spanish. The case study in this article presents a survey of the earliest Chinese language literary publications in the Sydney newspaper the Tung Wah Times (1898-1936): historical contexts, themes and genres, cultural function within the Chinese Australian community.' (Publication abstract)
'El Contestador Australiano' and the Transnational Flows of Australian Writing in Spanish, Michael Jacklin , single work criticism

'El contestador australiano y otros cuentos [The Australian answering machine and other stories] is the title of a collection of short stories written in Spanish by Uruguayan-born Ruben Fernández. It was published in 2008 in Montevideo by the well-regarded publishing house Del Sur Ediciones. In 2009 Fernández was interviewed by the Uruguayan newspaper El País and spoke about how his stories relate to his experience of thirty years as a migrant living in Australia. Many of the stories in this collection first appeared in Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s, a number of them as prize-winning entries in literary competitions, with several subsequently published in Spanish-language newspapers and magazines in Sydney. The Uruguayan publication is, in fact, a revised version of the 1993 book Querido Juan dos puntos, published in Sydney, with assistance from the Australia Council, by Cervantes Publications. This earlier collection was well received with reviews, interviews and front cover photographs appearing in the Spanish-language press in Australia at the time. Fernández is only one of a number of Spanish-speaking authors whose work flows between Australia, Latin America and Spain. In this article I discuss aspects of the literary infrastructure in Spanish in Australia that have supported the publication of fiction within this migrant community and analyse stories from El contestador australiano to demonstrate the transnational dimensions of Australian Spanish-language writing.' (Publication abstract)

Salvador Torrents and The Birth of 'Crónica' Writing in Australia, Catherine Seaton , single work criticism

'Creative writing in Australian Spanish-language newspapers has to date taken many forms, from short stories to poems, from memoirs to crónicas. Crónicas are writings that comment on the happenings of daily life, social habits and the concerns of communities, at times employing humour and satire while at others adopting a more sombre tone. Crónicas are a significant genre because they serve the reading community by touching on many of the themes that resonate with the migrant experience.

'While Spanish-language crónicas first appeared in Australian newspapers in the 1970s, their origins in this country were established much earlier by a Spanish migrant from Catalonia, Salvador Torrents. Torrents fled persecution as a result of his involvement in anarchist politics and arrived in Australia in 1916, working in the sugar cane fields near Innisfail, North Queensland. Up until his death in 1952 he wrote profusely in a variety of genres, including the crónica, and his work was published in European and North American newspapers. This study examines the way in which Torrents’ writings on politics, family life, social customs and gender relations informed an international audience, projecting the migrant’s perspective of an Australian experience to a worldwide readership.' (Publication abstract)

Christina Stead's Poor Women of Sydney, Travelling into Our Times, Carole Ferrier , single work criticism
'The paper considers the world within that Stead brought to her first novel, made up from a wide range of reading, and interaction with left intellectuals. bohemians and political activists in Sydney from during the First World War to the end of the 1920s.' (Publication abstract)
“The Pretty and the Political Didn’t Seem to Blend Well” : Reconciling Competing Ideological Imperatives in Anita Heiss’ Chick Lit, Imogen Mathew , single work criticism
'In recent decades, chick lit has become a ubiquitous – if not always celebrated – feature of the contemporary literary, social and cultural landscape. In Australia, Anita Heiss is one of the genre’s preeminent practitioners, and the only Aboriginal author writing chick lit for a mainstream, middleclass audience. A close reading of two of her novels (Not Meeting Mr Right and Manhattan Dreaming) reveals a deep political engagement running through her fiction. On the one hand, this political engagement is expressed by Heiss’ commitment to foregrounding the lives and experiences of young, urban, Aboriginal women. On the other hand, the narrative is peppered with references to, and discussion of, urgent political issues: from banning the burqa in France to protesting the Northern Territory intervention in Melbourne. While Heiss’ political engagement is of an unapologetically, left-wing, liberal cast, the analysis undertaken in this article will show that a surprisingly conservative bias forms the subtext to many of the political interventions in Heiss’ fiction. Galvanised by the question of why there should be such competing ideological imperatives at work in her fiction, this article will argue that the demands of an inherently conservative genre restrain and limit the extent to which chick lit can be used to promulgate a socially progressive vision.' (Publication abstract)
Worlds Within : Hayes Gordon, Zika Nester, Henri Szeps and the Transformations of Australian Theatre, Anne Pender , single work criticism
'This essay examines the lives and work of three important Australian actors, Hayes Gordon, Zika Nester and Henri Szeps. It explores their contribution to theatre in Australia in the context of Vilahsini Cooppan’s ‘politics of relationality’, in which the national and the global are ‘dual ideas held in balance’. The extraordinary work of Gordon, Nester and Szeps shows a direct connection between individual imagination and lived experience, and that of the nation in the post-imperial period. Each of the three actors have brought a unique understanding of Stanislavsky to the Australian theatre and have contributed to making the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney the most successful independent theatre in Australia over more than half a century.' (Publication abstract)
National Literatures, Scale and the Problem of the World, Robert Dixon , single work criticism
'One of the leading figures in world literature today is the Harvard scholar David Damrosch. His 2003 book What is World Literature? has been widely influential, and might be said to have established the new, US-centred field of study known as world literature. In a 2010 review of three later books edited or co-edited by Damrosch—How to Read World Literature (2009), Teaching World Literature (2009) and The Longman Anthology of World Literature (2009)—John M. Kopper describes them as Damrosch’s aleph. The reference, which I take to be ironic, is to the title story of Jorge Luis Borges’s collection, The Aleph (1949). The aleph is a mysterious gadget that apparently allows the narrator, who is also named ‘Borges,’ briefly to experience an all-encompassing vision of the universe. It is a parable about the madness of desiring a total or ‘encyclopedic vision’ (Echevarria 125). To describe world literature as Damrosch’s aleph is to imply that it is fundamentally misguided to seek a total vision of literature or to read books at the scale of the world. ‘If the aleph stands for the totality of literature,’ Kopper writes, then today’s rich and expanding bibliography of works about that immensity, along with the increasingly massive anthologies that seek to encircle it, show that we have lost our fear of the unbounded object that we study’ (408). ' (Author's introduction)
Is Australian Literature Global Enough?, Nicholas Birns , single work criticism
'What Australian literature is seems simple enough. There is a polity called Australia, and there is literature of this polity. Even people who do not know one single Australian writer—and in the US there are still some even among the literate—understand that, theoretically, Australia can have a literature. Australia is still a defined space, although the recent work of Elizabeth McMahon and Suvendrini Perera on continental and island identity has problematised that. A national literature of a state with multiple land borders with other states seems both palpable and gratifying to problematise. When French literature has been so exalted as a body at once national and universal, there is a thrill in seeing Frenchness trickle out to neighbouring nations, or be inflected by them. Moreover, traditionally Australia has not been seen as a country involved in the great border-crossing and border-altering wars of the twentieth century, nor, earlier, was it involved in imperial contestation as was Africa. In today’s globalised world, Australia is not really isolated, and Australian space contains even within its domestic borders many plural national imaginaries stemming from worldwide hybrid and diasporic identities, not to mention the potential permeability of Australia’s seacoast, as recent refugee flows have epitomised. Australia has worlds within itself: Italian worlds, Chinese worlds, Arab worlds, Greek worlds, Islamic worlds, Buddhist and Orthodox Christian worlds. Formerly one could couch this in terms of Australia becoming more diverse, more multicultural; now one might have to speak of a plurality of Australias, including totally imaginary ones like the Inner Australia conjured in Gerald Murnane’s The Plains. But, on the map, Australia seems this large island, a placid, magnified Britain of the South, and thus scores of recent academic projects that have taken on global literature and global modernities have rarely included Australia. ' (Author's indroduction)
Transnationalism and National Literatures : The Australian Case, Paul Giles , single work criticism
'Transnationalism should best be understood as a critical method, not as a description of inherent cultural forms, and so it is relatively easy to take a transnational approach to Australian or indeed any other kind of literature. Just as considerations of Medieval English literature have been enriched recently by a critical discourse that has elucidated points of crossover between Latin traditions and emerging vernacular languages, so Australian literature can productively be understood as both a nexus within, and a resistance to, larger orbits of globalisation. The key question here is not whether Australian literature itself is transnational, but what might be gained or lost in approaching the subject through such a critical matrix. Such an approach would of course cut against the assumptions implicit within the title ‘The Association for the Study of Australian Literature,’ a scholarly organisation based clearly upon a national paradigm, although in historical terms it is easy enough to understand the rationale behind its emergence. Writing in 1991, Sara Dowse attributed the founding of ASAL in 1978 to the attempt by a ‘band of stalwarts’ to resist ‘the domination of the British canon in key university English departments around the country’ (42), and in this sense the field of Australian literature has long been engaged professionally in an effort to carve out and consolidate space for itself from under the hegemonic shadow of English literature.1 The process here is very similar in kind to that which American literature underwent when it began to be established as a legitimate subject on university curricula during the first half of the twentieth century, with F.O. Matthiessen titling his famous 1941 book American Renaissance in a specific attempt to prove to his sceptical Harvard colleagues that his chosen five authors (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Whitman and Melville) were as good as any produced by the Renaissance in England.' (Author's introduction)

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Last amended 19 Jan 2017 10:27:36