AustLit logo
Michael Ackland Michael Ackland i(A25550 works by) (a.k.a. Michael Peter Ackland)
Born: Established: 1951 Geelong, Geelong City - Geelong East area, Geelong area, Geelong - Terang - Lake Bolac area, Victoria, ;
Gender: Male
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

Works By

Preview all
1 Fending off Doomsday : Christina Stead’s Response to Postwar, Democratic Europe Michael Ackland , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of the European Association for Studies on Australia , vol. 9 no. 2 2018;

'The article offers an overview of Stead’s response to the bourgeois social order, with special emphasis on her satiric commentary after the Second World War. In particular, Stead’s interest in covert statement and the role of Lenin’s seminal theses on the rentier class and imperialism are traced in The Little Hotel to reveal Stead’s unrelenting espousal of communism and her apparent certainty that the capitalist order was facing imminent overthrow.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

1 1 y separately published work icon Christina Stead and the Socialist Heritage Michael Ackland , Amherst : Cambria Press , 2016 12545973 2016 multi chapter work criticism

'Christina Stead (1902–1983) was an Australian novelist and short-story writer acclaimed for her satirical wit and penetrating psychological characterizations. Stead enjoyed an international reputation in the 1930s and beyond, then went out of favor as a communist-affiliated writer, until she was rediscovered by feminist critics. Her standing is considerable, and in Australia she vies with Patrick White for the laurel of finest Australian novelist.

'In this book, author Michael Ackland argues that the single most important influence on Stead’s life, socialism, has been seriously neglected in studies of her life and work. Ackland delves into Stead’s political formation prior to her departure for London in 1928, arguing that considerable insights can be added to the known record by reviewing these years within a specifically political context, as well as by interrogating Stead’s own accounts of key persons and events. He examines her novels, from Seven Poor Men of Sydney to I’m Dying Laughing and The Man Who Loved Children, and focuses on Stead’s conception of history, of capitalist finance, and on the significance of the key historical moments that frame her works.

'In tracing the trajectory of her work, Ackland illuminates how Stead was, as a well-informed Marxist critic underscored, a product of thirties. Steeped in socialist literature and steeled to withstand ideological adversity, Stead emerged at the end of the decade a strongly committed novelist, whose intellectual idealism and convictions could, as coming decades would show, long withstand privation, heartbreaks and the unwelcome lessons of history.

'This is an important book for collections in Australian literature, comparative literature, world literature, and women's studies.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

1 "Reclaiming the Rubbish" : Outcasts, Transformation and the Topos of the Painter/Seer in the Work of Patrick White and David Malouf Michael Ackland , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Le Simplegadi , no. 16 2016; (p. 27-36)

Settled by white convicts and often by people with few prospects in the Old World, Australia was sometimes thought of negatively as a dumping ground of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. This paper traces how, post-war, this perception was challenged in the fiction of Patrick White and David Malouf, which depicts local versions of the outcast artist in actual rubbish dumps and the creative, regenerative transformations that can occur there.

Full Text PDF

1 'The Young Man Will Go Far' : Educational Mobility and Christina Stead’s Compositional Practice in the Early 1930s Michael Ackland , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 8 December vol. 31 no. 6 2016;

'Education is a recurring concern in Stead's fiction, but nowhere is it more prominent as a theme than in her unpublished and largely ignored manuscript, 'The Young Man Will Go Far'. Coterminous with her early novels, its incomplete segments afford a frank critique of educational and social inequalities and, more importantly, key insights into her motivation and art. Arguably these show the centrality of ideas and political views to her compositions, her skill in dramatizing them, and suggest that ideas were often an unsuspected source of inspiration for her writing.'

Source: Abstract.

1 'Money Is a Steal' : Christina Stead’s Critique of Finance Capitalism in House of All Nations Michael Ackland , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of the European Association for Studies on Australia , vol. 7 no. 1 2016;

'Stead composed House of All Nations (1938) at a time of unprecedented economic and political crisis in the West, and the urgency of this situation is reflected in the speed and scope of this composition, and in the major target of her satire: finance capitalism. Her depiction of this Marxist concept, as well as specific allusions to the master's writings, are examined in detail to demonstrate her ideological position and putative aims.' (Publication abstract)

1 Morality at Bay : The Lesson of the Americas in Murray Bail's Homesickness Michael Ackland , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 28 no. 2 2014; (p. 275-288, 535.)
'For four decades Murray Bail's writing has been at the forefront of inventive and intellectual challenging Australian fiction, yet his preoccupations remain elusive, his works enigmatic. His first book, Contemporary Portraits and Other Stories, signalled the arrival of a major talent, an expectation matched by subsequent award-winning novels, such as Homesickness and Eucalyptus. His work, however, has been often accused of inventiveness for its own sake. Here, Ackland discusses Bail's Homesickness.' (Publication summary)
1 'On All Fours Passing, Tintinnabulation' : Murray Bail's Creative Case against the Imperial Word Michael Ackland , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Tapestry of the Creative Word in Anglophone Literatures 2013; (p. 231-240)
1 'Reality is Monstrous' : Christina Stead's Critique of the Triumphant West in The Puzzleheaded Girl Michael Ackland , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , June vol. 27 no. 1 2013; (p. 11-17)
Ackland talks about the publishing decline of Christina Stead's career due to her worsening political and economic situation. Midway through the 1960s, Stead's career was perilously poised. For more than a decade nothing new had appeared from her pen. This was a striking hiatus for a writer who previously had been producing novels at a rate of one every two or three year. Here, Ackland attempts first to establish Stead's political position and opinion of the post-war consensus that had emerged in the US before endeavouring to trace the impact of these attitudes on her depictions of contemporary society in The Puzzleheaded Girl.' (Editor's abstract)
1 'We are All Philosophers; We Cannot Help Being' : Credos, Life-Choices and Philosophy in Murray Bail's The Pages Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 12 no. 3 2012;
A critical study of Murray Bail's novel, The Pages.
1 'I am Thinking I am Free' : Intransigent Reality Versus Utopian Thought in the Later Fiction of Christina Stead Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 72 no. 1 2012; (p. 159-180)
At the midpoint of Christina Stead's first novel, Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934), Baruch urges Catherine to "go abroad, if you can... Get a real cause to fight about" (150). In this and subsequent exchanges Baruch emphasizes the need to go beyond symbolic or grandiloquent gestures, to know for instance the actual role of the Kuomintang in China, not merely to pin on its badge, or to side with armed forces, and not just the Salvation Army to scandalize friends (150). The advice was timely for youth struggling to choose between rival ideologies, programs and panacea, in a century which, with hindsight, appears "littered with Utopian schemes" (Hughes 164). At its outset labour and suffragette movements campaigned for greater rights for depressed social groups, while technological advances raised the prospect of a future in which disease and poverty might be banished, fulfilling work and leisure realizable. Then came the successful October Revolution in 1917, which gave Communism a permanent homeland, in which alternatives to democracy and capitalism could be explored. Also the brutal, dehumanizing experience of the Great War led to calls for radical renewal and social reform, for a reshaping of the inner man and his physical environment. During the inter-war years Europe and America witnessed a host of utopian ventures in the cultural and political spheres, from mass-produced furniture and fixtures, to cities of the future like Le Corbusier's "ville radieuse" or Vladimir Tatlin's designs intended to embody Soviet dynamism and dialectical processes, from popularist political movements, such as Upton Sinclair's crusade to end poverty in California and Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, to the totalitarian super-states of Hitler and Stalin. Stead was swept up and buffeted by these historical currents, considered rival nostrums, and left a crucial but neglected commentary on many of the great utopian projects of her time, which underpinned her verdict on the contemporary plight of women.' (Author's abstract)
1 Life Classes with the Master Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Experimental Fiction of Murray Bail 2012; (p. 153-221)
1 The New Andy Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Experimental Fiction of Murray Bail 2012; (p. 103-152)
1 Inside the Maze Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Experimental Fiction of Murray Bail 2012; (p. 37-102)
1 Enamoured with Art and Ideas Michael Ackland , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Experimental Fiction of Murray Bail 2012; (p. 1-36)
1 2 y separately published work icon The Experimental Fiction of Murray Bail Michael Ackland , Amherst : Cambria Press , 2012 7219427 2012 multi chapter work criticism

'Murray Bail is one of the most boldly innovative and intellectually challenging of contemporary writers. He is widely appreciated in his homeland, Australia, but too little read beyond its shores. Bail's major work began appearing in the 1970s, after an epochal change of government created a climate supportive of new talent and artistic experimentation. The enigmatic nature of his narratives, coupled with painfully slow composition habits, militated against the creation of a large following for his work, but established him as a writer of the most exacting standards, who measured himself against the best offered by European and American letters.' (Publication abstract)

1 Beneath the Camouflage : Mimicry and Settler False Consciousness in the Fiction of Murray Bail Michael Ackland , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies , Fall vol. 17 no. 2 2011; (p. 72-89)
1 Dreaming of the Middle Ages : The Place of 'mitterlalterlich' and Socialist Awareness in Christina Stead's Early Fiction Michael Ackland , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October - November vol. 26 no. 3-4 2011; (p. 54-68)
1 Politics, Clichés and the 'Lucky Country' : Murray Bail's Critique of National Mythologies in 'Holden's Performance' Michael Ackland , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Zeitschrift fur Australienstudien , no. 25 2011; (p. 27-41)
1 Behold Burton’s Tomb : Mortality and Escapism in Murray Bail’s Homesickness Michael Ackland , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 71 no. 3 2011; (p. 23-29)
'Whereas the ancients steadfastly acknowledged mortality, contemporaries, as Bail repeatedly shows in Homesickness, are usually bent on repressing or outrunning it. Within the novel their constant movements from land to land, from museum to museum, with never a mention of fixed itinerary or purpose, inevitably raise the question of why they travel. One of them, Borelli, enjoying his own speculative powers and to impress his fellow traveller Louisa, suggests: "Tourism compresses time and events ... In a sense we actually live longer. At least that's what a tourist somehow feels" (83). Later, however, he encounters a less acquiescing listener in his long-lost relative Hector, to whom he rehearses this theory: "there is a time factor to consider. We, ah travellers, operate in a condensed unreal time. For us, even time is summarized" (131). His uncle, building on the time premise and noting an anxiety shared by others in the group, quickly cuts through to the motivation suppressed in this reformulation: "You're nervous. Why else would you be busy making a fool of yourself? For all your travelling about, the fancy hotel rooms, at the end is death. Travelling is postponing it" (135). Homesickness has been most frequently discussed in terms of its "fertile inventiveness", its satirical targets, its modern and postmodern concerns, and its exploration of dilemmas raised by contemporary tourism. Easy to miss within its stunning pageant of extraordinary collections, real and imagined, and its cavalcade of tumultuous events, is a preoccupation with mortality. Although Bail has stated that the book is "really about knowledge or lack of it", as well as "states of mind and speculations which I am offering or complaining about", death remains, as I hope to demonstrate, the intransigent given of the narrative, as it is of human existence. An absence that is ever-present, it is arguably a source of hidden motivation in spheres as disparate as sexual coupling and hotel hygiene, and an unspoken but major concern that drives the tourists' seemingly pointless peregrinations.' (Author's abstract)
1 'Socialists of a New Socialism'?: Christina Stead's Critique of 1930s America in The Man Who Loved Children Michael Ackland , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: ELH , Summer vol. 78 no. 2 2011; (p. 387-408)
This essay examines Christina Stead's engagement with the Communist Party in the 1930s and argues that her most famous novel, The Man Who Loved Children, offers a fierce critique not only of patriarchy and her childhood, but also of contemporary events in Roosevelt's America. Through close analogy Stead savages Earl Browder's innovative Party program, and establishes startling correspondences between the Pollit family and a nation where free speech was increasingly jeopardized by Federal agencies and the Party line. Though Stead's literary rehabilitation depended, in part, on down-playing her political views, their continued neglect risks diminishing the full stature of her achievement (author's abstract).