AustLit logo
image of person or book cover 8518712086301137115.png
Meanjin logo
y separately published work icon Meanjin periodical  
Alternative title: Meanjin Papers; Meanjin Quarterly
Date: 2011-
Date: 2008-2010
Date: 2001-2007
Date: 1998-2001
Date: 1994-1998
Date: 1987-1993
Date: 1982-1986
Date: 1974-1982
Date: 1940-1974
Issue Details: First known date: 1940... 1940 Meanjin
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.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

The first issue of Meanjin was published at Brisbane in 1940, containing the poems of Clem Christesen, James Picot, Brian Vrepont and Paul Grano. Christesen was the founding editor and remained in that position until 1974, attempting to produce a 'journal of ideas, built around books, to encourage free expression and intelligent criticism, to put forward "advance guard" material, develop contacts abroad--a Literary Lend-lease'. To this end, Christesen attracted a diverse group of writers from Australia and overseas. In the 1940s Australian writers included poets such as Harold Stewart, Harry Hooton, Peter Hopegood, Max Harris, Rex Ingamells, Hugh McCrae and R. D. FitzGerald ; critics such as Vance and Nettie Palmer, A. R. Chisholm and R. G. Howarth; fiction writers such as Xavier Herbert and Katharine Susannah Prichard; and a variety of other commentators such as Norman Bartlett, Lloyd Ross, Brian Fitzpatrick and Manning Clark. Overseas writers whose work appeared in Meanjin included Anais Nin, Arthur Koestler and Jean-Paul Sartre. Accompanying the work of these writers were sketches, designs and woodcuts from a number of visual artists, including Margaret Preston, Frank Medworth, Noel Counihan and Roy Dalgarno.

Following an offer by Melbourne University to publish and manage the magazine, Christesen and his wife, Nina, moved to Melbourne in February 1945. Despite the financial security and institutional support, circulation dropped during the next twelve months. Christesen was forced to seek sponsorship from other sources to supplement the contribution from the university. By the late 1940s the distinct business connection with the university had ended but infrastructure was still provided, maintaining Meanjin 's institutional home.

With the onset of the Cold War, Communist Party sympathisers were being increasingly targetted and Meanjin was no exception. The Christesens were regularly under surveillance and were implicated in the Petrov Affair in 1955. But despite this adverse attention (threatening the approval of literary grants) and the destruction of many friendships, the circulation of Meanjin remained strong throughout the 1950s. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Christesen continued to attract the work of some of Australia's best writers and intellectuals, building a strong group of regular contributors, including A. D. Hope, A. A. Phillips, Judith Wright, Jack Lindsay, John Morrison, Robert D. FitzGerald, James K Baxter and David Martin. Meanjin also contributed to discussion on the visual arts with regular contributions from Allan McCulloch, Ursula Hoff and Bernard Smith. In addition, Several important series were produced in the 1960s with titles such as 'Australian Heritage', 'Godzone', 'Pacific Signposts', and 'The Temperament of Generations'. But with the growth of a new generation in a rapidly changing culture, and Christesen's flagging energy, Meanjin began to lose the distinctive tone that its long-time editor had fostered. The future of the magazine became a concern.

The historian Jim Davidson had been acting as editor for some time before he was officially instated in 1975. During his eight-year term Davidson attempted to attract a new generation of readers to Meanjin, with special issues on Papua and New Guinea, Women and the Arts, and Aboriginal culture. Davidson also introduced interviews in a new format that brought the first change in size to Meanjin since 1951. In the first issue of 1982 Judith Brett was acknowledged as Associate Editor, taking over from Davidson in the next issue. Like Davidson, Brett responded to changes in Australian culture, extending the discussion of women writers begun in the late 1970s and introducing a focus on migrant writers. Throughout this period Meanjin continued to print the works of many of Australia's best creative writers. Contributors during this period included Bruce Dawe, John Tranter, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Tom Shapcott, Jennifer Maiden, Les Murray, Patrick White, Frank Moorhouse, Morris Lurie, Laurie Clancy and Michael Wilding. In addition to established writers Meanjin also published the work of new writers, including Tim Winton, Nicholas Jose, Marion Halligan and Garry Disher.

Throughout the 1990s Meanjin went through several changes to format and faced a number of financial challenges. Jenny Lee's term as editor brought a more academic tone to the magazine and introduced regular thematic issues (but this has not always pre-determined the selection of creative writing). Many issues focused on cultural studies, postmodernism, postcolonialism and the state of the humanities. Other issues explored landscape, music, women's knowledge, Aboriginal issues and the Pacific region.

When Christina Thompson became editor in 1994, she brought another shift in tone, suggesting that Meanjin had become too academic, and pushed for a greater clarity in the contributions. Issues explored during Thompson's term included Canadian studies, corporatisation, suburban life, the Pacific region and queer studies. In the mid 1990s Meanjin faced severe financial setback when regular government funding was significantly reduced. Despite seeking outside funding, the diminished budget had an immediate effect. With inadequate funds to support productions costs, only three issues were produced in 1997. Thompson also experienced strong opposition from some Meanjin board members and did not seek reappointment.

In 1998 Melbourne University bought Meanjin to avoid its closure, imposing stronger control of the magazine's business dealings. Stephanie Holt, with a background in visual arts journalism, was appointed editor. During Holt's term, Meanjin explored issues on travel, crime, reconciliation, and revisited the idea of the cultural cringe. Former editor, Jim Davidson, later remarked that Holt had made Meanjin 'absolutely contemporary again'. But Holt faced some opposition at the end of her term and was controversially replaced by historian Ian Britain in 2001, causing several board members to resign in protest. Britain has since produced themed issues on museums, life writing, drugs and food.


* Contents derived from the Brisbane, Queensland,:Meanjin Press , 1940-1944 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
The Temperament of Generations, Various , sequence essay

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1940

Works about this Work

The Pioneer Legend and Its Legacy : In Memory of John Hirst Richard Waterhouse , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society , June vol. 103 no. 1 2017; (p. 7-25)

'In a famous study, The Australian Legend, first published in 1958, Russel Ward argued that the bush legend was the central foundation story that explained the evolution of Australian character and nationalism. Ward's version of the legend explained how from convict times onwards itinerant bush workers had created and adhered to an ethos that encompassed mateship, anti-authoritarianism (including hostility to Britain and its empire), egalitarianism, and adaptability. Although the bush legend allegedly originated with and was nurtured by a bush proletariat, Ward proposed that this regional ethos became a national creed at the turn of the 20th century, transmitted from rural to urban Australia through conduits that included the trade union movement, periodicals like The Bulletin, and the work of writers like Lawson and Paterson. (Publication abstract)

The Cold Wars of Aileen Palmer and Clem Christesen : The Art of Keeping Friends at a Distance Sylvia Martin , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Meanjin , Autumn vol. 76 no. 1 2017; (p. 142-150)
'At a time of war and transition, we still strive to “talk poetry”,’ wrote Clem Christesen in his editor’s introduction to the first issue of Meanjin Papers in 1940. His firm belief in the importance of keeping Australia’s intellectual and aesthetic culture alive, even during wartime, would continue to be his central concern. Encouraging free discussion of art, literature and contemporary social problems, his only criterion for publication was what he called ‘quality’.' (Introduction)
Black Friday Steve Dow , 2016 single work column
— Appears in: The Saturday Paper , 21 May 2016;
Literary Magazine Meanjin May Close After Losing Australia Council Funding Monica Tan , 2016 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 12 May 2016;
'Magazine with 76-year history in jeopardy after funding application to Australia Council rejected, ending council’s continuous support since 1974.'
The Meaning of Meanjin Matthew Wengert , 2014 single work essay
— Appears in: One Page : Brisbane , January vol. 1 no. 1 2014; (p. 12)
Rebirth a Cause for Celebration Nicola Walker , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 19-20 July 2008; (p. 35)

— Review of Meanjin 1940 periodical (317 issues)
The new editor of Meanjin, Sophie Cunningham, has introduced changes to the cover and content of this Australian literary quarterly magazine.
One Hundred Meanjins 1965 single work review
— Appears in: The Times Literary Supplement , 16 September 1965; (p. 792) Broadside , vol. 3 no. 4 1966; (p. 25-26)

— Review of Meanjin 1940 periodical (317 issues); Meanjin Quarterly vol. 24 no. 1 March 1965 periodical issue
Untitled H. Winston Rhodes , 1965 single work review
— Appears in: Aumla , November no. 24 1965; (p. 316-317)

— Review of Meanjin 1940 periodical (317 issues); Meanjin Quarterly vol. 24 no. 1 March 1965 periodical issue
Untitled Terry Sturm , 1966 single work review
— Appears in: Landfall , vol. 20 no. 1966; (p. 403-405)

— Review of Meanjin 1940 periodical (317 issues); Meanjin Quarterly vol. 24 no. 1 March 1965 periodical issue
A Tour Among the Magazines that Look at Literature Marion Halligan , 1983 single work review
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 5 January 1983; (p. 13)

— Review of Meanjin 1940 periodical (317 issues); Island Magazine 1981 periodical (32 issues)
Literary Criticism Ben Ball , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Times Literary Supplement , 7 March no. 5214 2003; (p. 24-25)
Reviews the first five issues of Meanjin under the editorship of Ian Britain - Vol, 60.4 (2001) - Vol. 61.4.(2002)
Bookmarks : A Frank Exchange with Clem Jason Steger , 2003 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 5 July 2003; (p. 6)
Editors' Statements [Jim Davidson] Jim Davidson , 1981 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October vol. 10 no. 2 1981; (p. 249-252)
Before We Had the Hype Fiona Donnelly , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 20 September 2003; (p. 4-5)
This article discusses Brisbane's alternative cultural history - the artists, musicians and writers from the late 1940s to 1980.
Judith Wright and Meanjin John Carmody , 2003 single work correspondence
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , October no. 255 2003; (p. 4)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

ISSN: 0815-953X
ISSN: 1324-1745
ISSN: 0025-6293
From v. 59.1 (2000) - v.60.3 (2001) has subtitle: Fine Writing and Provocative Ideas
v.1, no.1 (1940/42) -
20cm (1940-1950 [8-40pp]; 1975-2000 [130-220 pp]); 24cm (1951-1974 [90-120 pp]; 2001- [app. 230 pp])
three shillings (1940-1944); two shillings and sixpence (1945-1948); three shillings (1949-1950); five shillings (1951-1954); ten shillings (1955-1958); ten shillings and sixpence 1959- 1964); twelve shillings and sixpence (1965); $1.25 (1966-1970); $1.40 (1971-1972); $2.00 (1973); $2.50 (1974-1976); $3.00 (1977); $3,50 (1978-1980); $4.50 (1981-1983); $5.00 (1984-1987); $6.00 (1988-1989); $7.50 (1990); $8.50 (1991); $10.00 (1991- )
Many issues have distinctive titles


2020 recipient The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund $60,000 over three years

Has serialised

Last amended 29 Jun 2020 10:07:37
    Powered by Trove