From the editors' introduction: Michael Wilding, the distinguished teacher, critic and writer, retired in 2000 from his Personal Chair in English and Australian Literature at the University of Sydney. Two of his former colleagues, David Brooks and Brian Kiernan, have put together this Festschrift as a mark of honour to his brilliant career.
A number of his colleagues and students have written about Michael's achievements as a scholar and critic in various fields, and many among them about his attendant interest in the politics of writing and criticism. These essays on a vast range of themes in English and Australian literatures (including the ones on Michael's own novels and short stories), some on European literature, and one on its interaction with Asian literature have been grouped together in broadly chronological sequence according to topic.
The last section of this volume has essays on Professor Wilding's parallel career as a creative writer, fiction by some of the contributors and a variety of memoirs.
Hergenhan's contribution to the Festschrift for Michael Wilding starts as a memoir, reminiscing about the mid-1960s when he and Wilding were colleagues at the University of Sydney. Both Wilding and Hergenhan were interested in a Marcus Clarke 'revival', and both did some critical writing on Clarke which, in Wilding's case, led to the significant monograph Marcus Clarke (1977). Hergenhan discovers an affinity between the two writers who both were expatriates from England having to make sense of the new environment in Australia, and who both were Australian as well as international writers. He argues that 'perhaps Wilding saw much of himself in Clarke' (226), and concludes:
'Clarke provided a literary model [for Wilding], a morale booster, and above all an analogue of a thoroughly professional writer, with a flexible, restless outlook, pursuing the new with the aid of the old, a young expatriate writer, beginning his acclimatisation but always nurturing his internationalism. ... Theirs is one of the most fascinating connections - of "imagined counterparts" - in Australian literary history' (232).
This humorous story about an American poet and critic who attends a literary conference in Australia and meets up with a number of Australian and international friends and colleagues is written in the 'roman a clef' mode. Readers acquainted with the Australian literary scene will probably recognise many of the characters in the story, including the author and the recipient of the Festschrift, and the satirical style itself is a tribute to the latter.
Syson investigates the background to recent attempts by right-wing journalists, historians and intellectuals (mainly in Quadrant and the Courier-Mail) to discredit some former sympathisers with socialism and communism, such as Manning Clark and Henry Reynolds. This leads to a more general discussion of the representation of Australia's history, the role Quadrant, the CIA and the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom have played in it, and the continuing impact of the Cold War on Australian politics and culture.