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Walter McRae Russell Award (1983-)
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 : )


  • To be given to the best book of literary scholarship on an Australian subject published in the preceding two calendar years.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon Christina Stead and the Matter of America Fiona Morrison , Sydney : Sydney University Press , 2019 17267523 2019 multi chapter work criticism

'Although Christina Stead is best known for the mid-century masterpiece set in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, The Man Who Loved Children, it was not her only work about the America. Five of Christina Stead’s mid-career novels deal with the United States, capturing and critiquing American life with characteristic sharpness and originality.

'In this examination of Stead’s American work, Fiona Morrison explores Stead’s profound engagement with American politics and culture and their influence on her “restlessly experimental” style. Through the turbulent political and artistic debates of the 1930s, the Second World War, and the emergence of McCarthyism, the “matter” of America provoked Stead to continue to create new ways of writing about politics, gender and modernity.

'This is the first critical study to focus on Stead’s time in America and its influence on her writing. Morrison argues compellingly that Stead’s American novels “reveal the work of the greatest political woman writer of the mid twentieth century”, and that Stead’s account of American ideology and national identity remains extraordinarily prescient, even today.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 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)

Year: 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

Year: 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.

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)

Year: 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

Works About this Award

Walter McRae Russell Award 2003 Bernadette Brennan , Nicole Moore , Ian Henderson , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 2 no. 2003; (p. 209-211)
Judges report and short list.
ASAL Literary Awards Robert Dixon , 1998 single work column
— Appears in: Notes & Furphies , October no. 41 1998; (p. 9-10)
Walter McCrae [sic] Russell Award 1997 [Judges Report] Ken Gelder , Susan K. Martin , Paul Salzman , 1997 single work column
— Appears in: Notes & Furphies , October no. 39 1997; (p. 17-18)
ASAL Literary Awards, 1995 : The Walter McRae Russell Award Andrew Peek , C. A. Cranston , Margaret Roberts , 1995 single work criticism
— Appears in: Notes & Furphies , October no. 35 1995; (p. 16-17)
Australian Literature: Notes : Literary Awards [Southerly, vol.47 no.4, December 1987] 1987 single work column
— Appears in: Southerly , December vol. 47 no. 4 1987; (p. 464)