y Overland periodical   assertion
Date: 2015-
Date: 2007-2015
Date: 2004-2007
Date: 2003-2004
Date: 1997-2002
Date: 1993-1996
Date: 1988-1992
Date: 1954-1988
Issue Details: First known date: 1954... 1954 Overland
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

In March 1952 Bill Wannan distributed the first roneoed copies of Realist Writer to the Melbourne Realist Writers' Group, an organisation sponsored by the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Planned as a bulletin to share work within the group, Realist Writer sought to develop the genre of social realism in Australian literature. Beginning with the third issue, Stephen Murray-Smith accepted editorial responsibility, producing seven more issues before Realist Writer was incorporated into the first issue of Overland.

The first issue of Overland delared its motto, 'Temper democratic; Bias, Australian', adapting Joseph Furphy's description of Such is Life (1903). According to Murray-Smith, Overland sought to attract a 'mass audience' and he encouraged that audience to contribute to the development of the magazine. The first issue announced that Overland 'will aim high, but has no exclusive or academic standards of any kind. It will make a special point of developing writing talent in people of diverse background. We ask of our readers, however inexpert, that they write for us; that they share our love of living, our optimism, our belief in the traditional dream of a better Australia'. The selection of writing for publication eventually caused a break between Overland and the CPA in 1958. Murray-Smith's selection policy was primarily informed by aesthetic criteria rather than the ideological criteria promoted by the CPA. Unyielding pressure from the CPA to publish ideologically informed writing forced Murray-Smith to remove the magazine from its former sponsor and proceed independently.

According to Murray-Smith, up to 4,000 copies of Overland were regularly printed in its early years, but that number dropped after the break from the CPA. The circulation dropped further in the 1960s, remaining at around 2000 for several decades. Like most editors of small magazines, Murray-Smith was faced with the challenge of attracting funds for basic publishing costs. Extra contributions from subscribers were regularly acknowledged in the 'Floating Fund' column, a tradition that continues in 2003. Early attempts to win support from the Commonwealth Literary Fund were thwarted by selection committees unsympathetic to the magazine's communist origins. But, continuing financial support from the fund was eventually won in the early 1960s.

Murray-Smith continued as editor until his death in 1988. He was succeeded by the magazine's poetry editor, Barrett Reid, who continued in the position until first John McLaren and then Ian Syson completed their editorial terms in the 1990s. Syson was succeeded in 2003 by the former associate and assistant editors, Nathan Hollier and Katherine Wilson.

Early issues of Overland exhibit the influence of CPA ideology with short stories from writers such as Frank Hardy, Dorothy Hewett, Katharine Susannah Prichard and Judah Waten. After the break from the CPA, the magazine attracted contributions from a variety of writers, reflecting Murray-Smith's policy of selection according to merit, not ideology. Fiction in Overland during the 1960s and early 1970s included contributions from Xavier Herbert, Patrick White, Frank Moorhouse, Alan Marshall, Michael Wilding, Peter Cowan, Morris Lurie and Peter Carey. Later fiction includes contributions from Tim Winton, Elizabeth Jolley, David Foster, Murray Bail, Laurie Clancy, Janette Turner Hospital, Amy Witting and Marion Halligan.

Overland attracted a loyal group of poetry contributors in its first three decades. Contributors during the first decade of Overland such as Bruce Dawe, Judith Wright, Dorothy Hewett, Nancy Cato, Noel Macainsh, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and Thomas Shapcott continued to contribute poetry in the 1980s and 1990s. Later contributors include Graham Rowlands, Eric Beach, Robert Adamson, Geoff Goodfellow, Geoff Page, Laurie Duggan, Kate Lilley and Jennifer Maiden.

In both poetry and fiction Overland has shown an interest in overseas literature, particularly contemporary Chinese literature. While the contributions of poetry and fiction from this large groups of writers remained relatively strong, the value of some feature articles has occasionally been questioned by various commentators because of a perceived divergence from writing styles suitable for a general audience. At an editorial conference in 1978, Ian Turner, speaking of Overland, said, 'We have lost our popular audience; now it is rather the radical intelligentsia, say 35 years of age and older'. Echoes of this statement (not exclusively about Overland) appeared in the mid 1990s. In 1998, Duncan Richardson and Allan Gardiner complained in the pages of Overland about the trend towards academic articles unsuitable for the 'non-elite' reader, directing blame at magazines not readers for falling subscriptions.

Despite such criticism, Overland has maintained a strong reputation for investigating important social issues. Early volumes were dominated by articles on Australian literary figures and their works, but this was accompanied by articles on the bombing of Hiroshima, censorship of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and social conditions in Aboriginal communities and Papua New Guinea. Later volumes have included essays on international conflict, immigration, multiculturalism, the practice of literary criticism, Australian historiography, sport and cinema.

Proud of its history, the newest editors of Overland, Nathan Hollier and Katherine Wilson have revisited the editorial doctrine that Murray-Smith printed in the first issue. In their first editorial they echoed Murray-Smith's call for contributions, hoping to strengthen the connection with the Australian working-class forged in the first years of Overland.

Notes

  • RANGE: 1954-
  • FREQUENCY: Quarterly
  • SIZE: 24cm, 16-150pp
  • PRICE: one shilling (1954-55); one shilling sixpence (1956-57); two shillings sixpence (1957-62); four shillings (1963-65); fifty cents (1965-73); $1 (1974-76); $1.50 (1977); $2 (1978-80); $3 (1980-81); $4 (1982-86); $5 (1986-88); $6 (1989-90); $4.50 (1991); $4.95 (1992-94); $7.50 ((1994-95); $8 (1995-98); $10 (1998-99); $12 (2000-2002); $12.50 (2003)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1954
    • Overland , 1954-1988 .
      Note/s:
      • Stephen Murray-Smith's editorial address was in Melbourne between 1954 and 1983, and Mt Eliza, Victoria, from 1983 until his death in 1988.

Works about this Work

Turning Pages Jane Sullivan , 2016 single work column
— Appears in: The Saturday Age , 28-29 May 2016; (p. 29)
Those Old Subversive Starvation Box Blues Joe Dolce , 2015 single work essay
— Appears in: Quadrant , October vol. 59 no. 10 2015; (p. 80-82)
Bias Australian John McLaren , 2014 single work essay
— Appears in: Overland , Summer no. 217 2014; (p. 86-93)
'The article offers information on the Australian journal "Overland" and its history. Topics include the personal and political path of Stephen Murray-Smith, the founder and first editor of the magazine, how the magazine maintains a democratic spirit through the publication of articles from ordinary people, and the commitment of the magazine to publish work with Australian origin.' (Publication abstract)
Stephen’s Vector Jim Davidson , 2014 single work essay
— Appears in: Overland , Spring no. 216 2014; (p. 91-97)
'Jim Davidson on Stephen Murray-Smith's progress to Overland.
Fancy Cuts : An Introduction Jennifer Mills , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: Overland , Spring no. 216 2014; (p. 33)
Magazines of the Left: Two Stayers and Two Hopefuls Bill Tully , 2004 single work review
— Appears in: Voice : A Journal of Comment and Review , June no. 10 2004; (p. 32-38)

— Review of Overland 1954 periodical (232 issues); Arena 1963 periodical (51 issues); Dissent 1961 periodical (18 issues)
Bill Tully takes a broad look at four periodicals: Overland, Arena, Dissent and the Socialist Alliance's Seeing Red. Although some attention is paid to specific 2004 issues of the periodicals, the review deals mostly in general terms and provides background information on the establishment of each journal.
Introduction Pamela Brown , 2002 single work column
— Appears in: Jacket , March no. 16 2002;
The Realist Writers Deirdre Moore , 1999 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Spring no. 156 1999; (p. 24-29)
Bad Tempered Democrats, Biased Australians : Socialist Realism, Overland and the Australian Legend John McLaren , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Frank Hardy and the Literature of Commitment 2003; (p. 53-69)
Editing the Neighbourhood Jim Davidson , 1989 single work column
— Appears in: Fremantle Arts Review , January vol. 4 no. 1 1989; (p. 10-11)
Fighter for Justice Really Packs a Punch Martin Flanagan , 2003 single work column biography
— Appears in: The Age , 3 November 2003; (p. 2)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

ISSN: 0030-7416
Last amended 24 Jun 2015 10:07:43
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