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Colin Roderick was a writer, editor, academic and educator. He is perhaps best remembered for promoting the study of Australian literature (at a time when it attracted little academic interest), and also for his biographical and critical studies of Henry Lawson.
Roderick was educated at Bundaberg State School, and gained a BA in 1936, via the University of Queensland's external studies program, whilst working as a school teacher. He then went on to obtain a BEd, and following a brief period in the Australian Army, a MA and MEd, and some years later, a PhD (conferred by The University of Queensland in 1954, for a dissertation on Rosa Praed). After World War II, Roderick took up a position with Sydney publisher Angus and Robertson, where he remained until the 1960s, eventually becoming editor-in-chief of the firm's educational division.
During the 1950s, as convenor and then honorary secretary of the Australian Literature Committee, Roderick was instrumental in having a chair of Australian literature established at the University of Sydney, and in this period he also helped Miles Franklin establish the Miles Franklin Award for the best Australian novel. (He served as a Miles Franklin Award judge from 1957 to 1991.)
In 1965 Roderick was appointed Professor of English at the later-named James Cook University, Townsville, where he became an energetic teacher. He started the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies, as well as inaugurating a lecture series and an annual book award (both of which were subsequently named in his honour). Following retirement from James Cook University in 1976, Roderick continued his research and writing, producing authoritative biographies of Miles Franklin, Banjo Patterson, and the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt . As Emeritus Professor he also continued his occasional lectures on Australian literature at European universities (he spoke French, German and Italian).
The National Library of Australia holds a significant collection of Roderick's papers in its manuscripts collection.