This is the littoral, the long pale shore,
The gleaming sand, the cliffs were shallow foam
Mutes in its murmurings the rousing roar
Of curved green crests that crashed the proud ship
The silver sandhills, where, uneasily,
The land receives the rejects of the sea.
'At an author event hosted in 1947 by the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Ruth Park met head-on the polarised reactions stirred by her novel The Harp in the South, as it appeared in instalments in the Sydney Morning Herald just prior to its publication as a book. Amid the raucous was one particularly belligerent man, as Miles Franklin recounts in a letter written after the event, who ‘kept on and on till people tried to laugh him down. He said he did not want to read stories about pregnant women and slums, that that was not literature.’' (Introduction)
'Never directly associated with nor influenced by one another, the British author George Orwell and the Australian novelist Kylie Tennant are nonetheless two contemporaneous writers for whom the issue of poverty proved an enduring preoccupation in both work and life. Both sought lived experience of Depression era hardship that was, in turn, translated into ambiguous works of fiction and non-fiction. During a formative period in both writers’ careers, Orwell and Tennant were published in England by the influential and progressive left-wing house of Victor Gollancz. This essay examines the representation of poverty in Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), the latter of which was distributed through Gollancz’s Left Book Club during the peak of the ‘Yellow Book’ period, and in Tennant’s fictional portrait of inner-city working-class life, Foveaux (1939), through the lens of their association with Gollancz. It argues that the urgent moral imperative to solve the global crisis of poverty represents an important basis for understanding the turn to documentary realism by Orwell and Tennant at that time. While publication by Gollancz helped to establish international reputations for Orwell and Tennant as writers of social conscience, this essay also considers the extent to which the growing scrutiny afforded to the participant-observer mode complicates their contemporary reception.' (Publication abstract)
'This book examines literary representations of Sydney and its waterway in the context of Australian modernism and modernity in the interwar period. Then as now, Sydney Harbour is both an ecological wonder and ladened with economic, cultural, historical and aesthetic significance for the city by its shores. In Australia’s earliest canon of urban fiction, writers including Christina Stead, Dymphna Cusack, Eleanor Dark, Kylie Tennant and M. Barnard Eldershaw explore the myth and the reality of the city ‘built on water’. Mapping Sydney via its watery and littoral places, these writers trace impacts of empire, commercial capitalism, global trade and technology on the city, while drawing on estuarine logics of flow and blockage, circulation and sedimentation to innovate modes of writing temporally, geographically and aesthetically specific to Sydney’s provincial modernity. Contributing to the growing field of oceanic or aqueous studies, Sydney and its Waterway and Australian Modernism shows the capacity of water and human-water relations to make both generative and disruptive contributions to urban topography and narrative topology.'
Source : publisher's blurb
'In Sydney, the period between the two world wars was a time of rapid change, when ‘modern’ was considered a goal to which the city and its people should strive. The 1930s were bookended by the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932 and the 1938 Sesquicentenary of the First Fleet’s landing, two events that figured Sydney as the triumphant end point of a narrative of national, white Australian progress. This period also saw the publication of a number of novels by Australian women writers that took the contemporary city as their setting and scrutinised urban modernity as a state of being and an ideological position. This thesis takes as its focus five novels that depict and debate the multiple and often combative discourses of modernity that flowed through Australia’s first and most populous urban centre in the interwar period: Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) by Christina Stead, Jungfrau (1936) by Dymphna Cusack, Waterway (1938) by Eleanor Dark, Foveaux (1939) by Kylie Tennant, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1947; 1983) by M. Barnard Eldershaw. Through close reading within and across the novels, I argue that this generation of women writers pioneered a distinctly Australian, modern urban poetics that is best described as aqueous. Responding to Sydney as a dynamic estuarine environment, each writer mobilises water as location and literary device, infusing the modern city’s spaces and processes with productively aqueous qualities of changeability and circulation, unsettlement and motility. Making heuristic use of a Benjaminian framework for dialectical urban thinking, I read this aqueous poetics of Sydney against the narrative of progress epitomised by the Bridge and Sesquicentenary, arguing that in contradistinction to this narrative, the novels present an Australian urban modernity of material emplacement in an unpredictably watery sphere, where history settles and sediments, multiple ideological schemas flow into one another, and relations between bodies, space and power generate constant contestation.'