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Walter McRae Russell Award
or McRae Award; or Walter McRae Russell Award
Subcategory of ASAL Awards
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'To be given to the best book of literary scholarship on an Australian subject published in the preceding two calendar years. Up till 1994 for an outstanding work of literary scholarship by a young or unestablished author (usually a first book). No nominations are required, though ASAL members are invited to propose books for consideration by the judging panel.' (Source : )


2019 winner y separately published work icon Like Nothing on This Earth : A Literary History of the Wheatbelt Tony Hughes-d'Aeth , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2017 10716171 2017 multi chapter work criticism

'During the twentieth century, the southwestern corner of Australia was cleared for intensive agriculture. In the space of several decades, an arc from Esperance to Geraldton, an area of land larger than England, was cleared of native flora for the farming of grain and livestock. Today, satellite maps show a sharp line ringing Perth. Inside that line, tan-coloured land is the most visible sign from space of human impact on the planet. Where once there was a vast mosaic of scrub and forest, there is now the Western Australian wheatbelt.

'Tony Hughes-d’Aeth examines the creation of the wheatbelt through its creative writing. Some of Australia’s most well-known and significant writers - Albert Facey, Peter Cowan, Dorothy Hewett, Jack Davis, Elizabeth Jolley, and John Kinsella - wrote about their experience of the wheatbelt. Each gives insight into the human and environmental effects of this massive-scale agriculture.

'Albert Facey records the hardship and poverty of small-time selection in Australia. Dorothy Hewett makes the wheatbelt visible as an ecological tragedy. Jack Davis shows us an Aboriginal experience of the wheatbelt. Through examining this writing, Tony Hughes-d’Aeth demonstrates the deep value of literature in understanding the human experience of geographical change.' (Publication summary)

2013 winner y separately published work icon The Censor's Library Nicole Moore , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2012 Z1827919 2012 single work criticism

'A history of book censorship in Australia - what we couldn't read, didn't read, didn't know, and why we didn't.

'For much of the twentieth century, Australia banned more books and more serious books than most other English-speaking or Western countries, from the Kama Sutra through to Huxley's Brave New World and Joyce's Ulysses.

'The Censor's Library is the first comprehensive examination of Australian book censorship, based around the author's discovery of the secret 'censor's library' in the National Archive - 793 boxes of banned books, prohibited from the 1920s to the 1980s.

'As it has for much of Australia's history, censorship continues to attract heated debate, from the Henson affair to the national internet feed. But federal publications censorship has been a largely secret affair for most of the century, deliberately kept from the knowledge of the public.

'The Censor's Library is a provocative account of this scandalous history. Combining scholarship with the narrative tension of a thriller, Nicole Moore exposes the secret history of censorship in Australia.'

Source: Penguin website,
Sighted: 28/11/2011

2011 joint winner y separately published work icon Journey Without Arrival : The Life and Writing of Vincent Buckley John McLaren , North Melbourne : Australian Scholarly Publishing , 2009 Z1558277 2009 single work biography

'I envy artists who excrete a style as a tree gives out gum resin, as something natural to them...For me, the style is existential, expressive and problematic...I am not a canonical person, and find orthodox formularies hard to remember, let alone 'believe in'.

For forty years, Vincent Buckley (1925-1988) was a central figure in Melbourne's literary, political and religious life. A major poet, he was also a leading literary critic, a regular book reviewer and a formidable controversialist. Themes in his work include the nature of God, religious and political responsibility and the place of poetry in a modern society. This is the first biography of Vincent Buckley. (Publisher's Blurb)

2011 joint winner y separately published work icon Rainforest Narratives : The Work of Janette Turner Hospital David Callahan , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2009 Z1611963 2009 single work criticism

'Rainforests evoke vivid imagery; the profusion of intertwined trees and undergrowth both invites and confounds exploration. Acclaimed writer Janette Turner Hospital conjures up a rainforest for readers by weaving threads of connection and meaning into a labyrinth of characters and plot lines. From The Ivory Swing to Orpheus Lost, Hospital's award-winning novels and short stories have challenged and intrigued readers for over twenty-five years. Hospital's books tackle complex themes of dislocation, identity, ethics and the nature of reality, wrapping around a reader like rainforest creepers, remaining attached long after the last page is turned.

In this groundbreaking work of literary criticism, David Callahan signposts and analyses the major themes scattered throughout Janette Turner Hospital's writing. Rainforest Narratives is the perfect companion to her fiction for readers and scholars alike.' -- Publisher description.

2009 winner y separately published work icon Ethical Investigations : Essays on Australian Literature and Poetics Noel Rowe , Bernadette Brennan (editor), Sydney : Vagabond Press , 2008 Z1583921 2008 selected work criticism
2007 winner y separately published work icon The Higher Self in Christopher Brennan's 'Poems' : Esotericism, Romanticism, Symbolism Katherine Barnes , Leiden : Brill , 2006 Z1280955 2006 single work criticism
2005 joint winner y separately published work icon Creating Frames : Contemporary Indigenous Theatre : 1967-1990 Maryrose Casey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2004 Z1109707 2004 single work criticism

From publisher's blurb (back cover): Creating Frames provides the first significant social and cultural history of Indigenous theatre across Australia. As well as using archival sources and national and independent theatre company records, much of this history is drawn from interviews with individuals who have shaped contemporary Indigenous theatre in Australia - including Bob Maza, Jack Charles, Gary Foley, Justine Saunders, Weley Enoch, Ningali, and John Harding...

Creating Frames traces the history of production of texts by Indigenous Australian artists from 1967 to 1997. It includes productions in theatres of texts by Indigenous Australian artists, collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, and adaptations of texts by Indigenous artists. The focus is public urban commercial productions and includes national and international premieres and tours. 'Commercial' is used here in the sense of public presentations open to any potential audience member as distinct from closed community productions. The focus does not include radio plays, millennia of traditional practices, performances devised and performed within communities, or community outreach/education theatre initiatives such as HeatWorks in the Kimberley. Even within these limits the constraints of space have affected the number of productions that can be covered in detail.

Throughout this thirty year period, particular themes recur, these themes relate to the ways in which the external framing of the work either facilitates or blocks production. These themes often relate directly or indirectly to concepts of 'authenticity' and/or 'Aboriginality' - in effect the 'acceptable' face of Aboriginality within government and social narratives at any point in time. The strength and power of these themes as frames for the work has drawn on generally accepted understandings of Australian history and the ways in which these are manipulated in the service of political agendas. These frames fall into three main categories within the thirty year period - assimilation, multiculturalism and reconciliation. This production history reveals that, rather than Euro-Australian theatre practitioners creating an environment that enabled Indigenous theatre practice, Indigenous artists have taken their own initiative. An initiative they continue to take whilst simultaneously contesting the primarily external frames that define their work and affect their production possibilities.

(Abstract courtesy the author.)

2005 joint winner y separately published work icon Settler Romances and the Australian Girl Tanya Dalziell , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2004 Z1162995 2004 multi chapter work criticism Incisive readings of popular late 19th and early 20th century settler adventure romance unmask a deep-seated anxiety about the stability of concepts of whiteness and femininity in colonial Australia.In the acknowledgements, the author lists three of her earlier articles which first outlined key elements of the argument presented in this work.
2003 winner y separately published work icon How Simone de Beauvoir Died in Australia Sylvia Lawson , Sydney : University of New South Wales Press , 2002 Z926778 2002 selected work short story essay criticism With a keen critical eye and sharp insight Sylvia Lawson moves the essays and stories in this collection through settings in and out of Australia - across Paris, West Papua, Britain, Indonesia - listening to the distinctive local voices from our cultural margins and reclaiming concerns the metropolitan centres ignore. (Source: Publisher's Website)
2001 winner y separately published work icon The Intimate Empire : Reading Women's Autobiography Gillian Whitlock , London New York (City) : Cassell , 2000 Z820500 2000 single work criticism Series of readings of contemporary and nineteenth-century women's autobiographies and travel writing from Australia, Britain, Canada, the Caribbean, Kenya and South Africa.
1999 winner y separately published work icon Sightlines : Race, Gender, and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre Helen Gilbert , Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press , 1998 Z467174 1998 single work criticism
1998 winner y separately published work icon A Career in Writing : Judah Waten and the Cultural Politics of a Literary Career David Carter , Toowoomba : Association for the Study of Australian Literature , 1997 Z159609 1997 single work criticism
1997 winner y separately published work icon The Lie of the Land Paul Carter , London : Faber , 1996 Z258408 1996 single work criticism
1996 winner y separately published work icon In Search of Steele Rudd : Author of the Classic Dad and Dave Stories Richard Fotheringham , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1995 Z66585 1995 single work biography A biography of the author of the Dad and Dave stories. Steele Rudd was the pseudonym of Arthur Hoey Davis, and looking for Steele Rudd leads the search party down a rabbit-hole of facades and cultural stereotypes in an attempt to discover the real author behind the iconic Australian imagery.   
1995 winner y separately published work icon The Scandalous Penton : A Biography of Brian Penton Patrick Buckridge , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1994 Z575375 1994 single work biography
1994 winner y separately published work icon Christina Stead : A Biography Hazel Rowley , Port Melbourne : Heinemann , 1993 Z202981 1993 single work biography

'Like the author herself, Christina Stead’s novels were challenging and engrossing. Raised by a narcissistic father, Stead left for London at the age of twenty-six and soon met William Blake, a writer, broker, and Marxist political economist who became her life partner. His personal ambitions and their politics resulted in a nomadic existence, with Stead sidestepping the traditional feminine role in exchange for a career. She struggled to find an audience for her work, however, only succeeding late in life with the reissue of The Man Who Loved Children. Hazel Rowley’s richly detailed and even-handed biography spans Stead’s life, expertly blending her encoded personal papers with interviews of her closest confidants. Masterfully written and researched, Christina Stead is a fascinating chronicle of one of the twentieth century’s greatest novelists.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (Open Road ed.)

1993 winner y separately published work icon The Sea Coast of Bohemia : Literary Life in Sydney's Roaring Twenties Peter Kirkpatrick , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1992 Z365461 1992 single work criticism
1992 winner y separately published work icon The Life and Opinions of Tom Collins : A Study of the Works of Joseph Furphy Julian Croft , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1991 Z87450 1991 multi chapter work criticism
1991 winner y separately published work icon The Folly of Spring : A Study of John Shaw Neilson's Poetry Cliff Hanna , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1990 Z544461 1990 selected work criticism biography
1990 winner y separately published work icon Black Words, White Page : Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988 Adam Shoemaker , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1989 Z106800 1989 single work criticism (taught in 1 units)

Shoemaker's primary concern is to look at the beginning of 'black people's' writing in Australia since the 1960s and focus on the nascent literary canon emerging through Aboriginal writing. Shoemaker moves the readership through non-Aboriginal authors such as Katharine Susannah Prichard (1929) and Xavier Herbert (1938) in a chapter entitled 'Popular Perceptions of Unpopular People to Progress and Frustrated Expectations: The Era Since 1961'. Where Aboriginal writing begins, for Shoemaker's purposes, is an area of literary production he describes as 'fourth world literature'.

1989 winner y separately published work icon Christina Stead Susan Sheridan , Bloomington : Indiana University Press , 1988 Z87041 1988 single work criticism biography
1988 winner y separately published work icon The Road to Botany Bay : An Essay in Spatial History Paul Carter , London : Faber , 1987 Z534444 1987 single work criticism
1987 winner y separately published work icon National Fictions : Literature, Film and the Construction of Australian Narrative Graeme Turner , Sydney : Allen and Unwin , 1986 Z1444061 1986 single work criticism

'National Fictions is a study of Australian literature and film. It is also a study of Australian culture, viewing the novels and films as products of a specific culture; as narratives with similar structures, functions, forms and meanings. It covers a range of texts, offering both close analysis and an account of their place within the system of meanings dominant in Australian culture.' (Publication summary)

1986 winner y separately published work icon Unbridling the Tongues of Women : A Biography of Catherine Helen Spence Susan Magarey , Sydney : Hale and Iremonger , 1985 Z389195 1985 single work biography

'Catherine Helen Spence was a charismatic public speaker in the late nineteenth century, a time when women were supposed to speak only at their own firesides. In challenging the custom and convention that confined middle-class women to the domestic sphere, she was carving a new path into the world of public politics along which other women would follow, in the first Australian colony to win votes for women.

'She was also much more -- a novelist deserving comparison with George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman; a pioneering woman journalist; a "public intellectual" a century before the term was coined; a philanthropic innovator in social welfare and education, with an influence reaching far beyond South Australia; Australia's first female political candidate. A "New Woman", she declared herself. The "Grand Old Woman of Australia" others called her.' (From the publisher's website, 2010 edition.)

1985 winner y separately published work icon Wild Man of Letters : The Story of P. R. Stephensen Craig Munro , Melbourne : Melbourne University Press , 1984 Z444155 1984 single work biography Admired by D. H. Lawrence and denounced as a traitor during World War II, 'Inky' Stephensen was one of Australia's most remarkable men of letters. His stormy life paralleled the major artistic and political upheavals of the twentieth century. (Source: LibrariesAustralia)
1984 winner y separately published work icon The Archibald Paradox : A Strange Case of Authorship Sylvia Lawson , Ringwood : Penguin , 1987 Z282137 1987 single work criticism
1983 winner y separately published work icon Exiles at Home : Australian Women Writers 1925-1945 Drusilla Modjeska , Sydney : Sirius Books , 1981 Z975826 1981 single work criticism biography

'At the end of the 1920s Christina Stead had left Australia and was poised to write Seven Poor Men of Sydney. In London Miles Franklin was producing her first Brent of Bin Bin book and would soon return to Australia. Katharine Susannah Prichard was enlarging her view of black and white in outback Australia, and the team writing under the name M. Barnard Eldershaw had published its first novel and won the Bulletin prize. Gathering these writers into a network by her support and criticism was the influential Nettie Palmer. In the mid-1930s these women and other writers such as Eleanor Dark, Jean Devanny, Dymphna Cusack and Betty Roland faced the impact of fascism and another war. The platform and the writing desk had different and often conflicting appeals; and the Depression underlined the already precarious existence of the woman writer. This immensely readable work by one of Australia's most respected writers of today is a fascinating insight into the lives of these significant literary figures, and into the creative process itself.' (Publication summary)