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vijay raj

vijay raj


December 25, 2011


This Paper aims at emphasizing the reflecting old and new influences in Australian literature. Australian literature reflects a range of influences, from English literary traditions to the storytelling of Indigenous Australians and the European settlers and convicts who arrived in Australia in the late 18th century. Today’s writing also reflects the cultural diversity of contemporary Australian society.

Australian writers have produced a diverse range of internationally acclaimed novels, drama, poetry and non-fiction. Their works have increasingly been recognised through international literary awards.

Many prominent authors have sought inspiration in English and European literature, and these cultural relationships remain strong. There are also some parallels between the development of Australian literature and North American literature.

The oral storytelling of Indigenous Australians and convicts and settlers contributed to the development of distinctive Australian writing styles. Early authors explored themes of Indigenous and settler identity, alienation, exile and relationship to place.

Australia’s vast, dry landscape itself became a character in early Australian works of literature. Dislocated from their countries of origin in the early days of Australia’s settlement, many writers struggled with notions of what it meant to be Australian.

Strong sentiments of egalitarianism—a wish to be free of the old society of class and privilege—were born and surfaced in Australian literature from that time.

Some early stories were of the ‘ripping yarn’ variety, typified in Rolf Boldrewood’s Robbery under Arms (1882). Most of Boldrewood’s novels were romances and his lead characters English gentlemen, but his outback settings introduced the Australian environment to many readers. Likewise, the poetry of English settler Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833–70) helped foster understanding of Australian identity. Gordon’s Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes became so popular in England that he was represented in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey (the only Australian to be so recognised).

Moral debate about the treatment of convicts underpinned Marcus Clarke’s melancholy masterpiece, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874). It is possibly the most famous 19th century Australian novel and is still published today.


Gold rush migrants arrived in Australia in the 1850s, some pressing for democratic rights and freedoms. The second half of the 19th century saw rapid social evolution, great cultural enthusiasm and new-found nationalism in Australia. Universities, libraries and museums were established, and journals such as the Bulletin, the Republican, Australian Town and Country, the Sydney Worker and Truth published the short stories of aspiring authors. Among them was Henry Lawson (1867–1922), whose first collection of stories appeared in 1894, followed by While the Billy Boils in 1896, generally considered his best prose collection. Born in a tent on the goldfields in New South Wales in 1867 and raised in rural poverty and city squalor, Lawson wrote with compassion about the lives and struggles of Australian pioneers—the men and women of the bush. Lawson helped define an Australian character based on mate ship and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Joseph Furphy (1843–1912), an outstanding writer of Australian fiction before World War I, was also inspired by the country’s new-found nationalism. His masterpiece novel Such Is Life (1903), a fictional account of the lives of rural Australians in the late 1800s, shifted Australian fiction away from the colonial romance genre and earned him the reputation of ‘Father of the Australian novel’. Until the Depression in 1929, most novels were optimistic about the ‘lucky country’, past and present. However, in the late 1930s the literary mood shifted and darker world views were explored. Henry Handel Richardson (1870–1946) wrote in the optimistic and populist tradition. But her trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, published between 1917 and 1929, showed that Australian life could be material for a tragic novel.

Norman Lindsay was another significant novelist of the period, writing Saturdee (1933), a comic masterpiece about Australian boyhood in the Mark Twain mould. Lindsay is best known for his famous children’s novel The Magic Pudding (1918), which mixes fantasy, humour, satire and comic verse. May Gibbs’s equally famous Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published in 1918 and Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner was published in 1894. Such writers provided the foundation for Australia’s impressive range of children’s books, which now includes the works of Margaret Wild, Mem Fox, Pamela Allen, Paul Jennings, Andy Griffiths and Jackie French. The national Children’s Book Council presents awards for children’s books and holds a national Children’s Book Week in August each year.

An important writer in the early 20th century was Miles Franklin (born Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin in 1879), whose feminism set her apart in a time of conservatism. Her most famous novel is My Brilliant Career (1901), which was made into an acclaimed film in 1979. Franklin died in 1954 and her will provided for the establishment of an annual literary award. Today the Miles Franklin Award is one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes. The first written Indigenous works were translations of traditional myths and legends originally told in song and oral narrative. Many of these translations were simplistic and did not always reflect the complexity and diversity of the originals.



Aboriginal writing in English is a relatively new phenomenon, starting with David Unaipon (1872–1967), who made a significant contribution to literature and science and to the advancement of Aboriginal people. Unaipon’s book Native Legends was the first to be published by an Aboriginal writer (in 1929). This was followed by Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines (1930). In 1989, the University of Queensland Press established the David Unaipon Award, which recognises and provides publishing opportunities for new Indigenous writers.Other well-known Indigenous authors include the playwright Jack Davis, the writer Mudrooroo and the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, whose We Are Going (1964) was the first book of published poetry by an Aboriginal Australian. Sally Morgan’s My Place (1987) was considered a breakthrough memoir that brought Indigenous stories to wider notice. Since the 1960s, there has been a marked increase in publications by Indigenous writers, including poetry, fiction, drama, biography and autobiography, and political and sociological writing. In 2007, Indigenous writer and land rights activist Alexis Wright won the Miles Franklin Award for her novel Carpentaria.



The demand for popular fiction continued to grow in the second half of the 20th century. Prominent authors included Nevil Shute (1899–1960), an Englishman who settled in Australia and wrote novels including A Town Like Alice (1950), and Morris West (1916–99), who wrote 29 novels, including The Shoes of the Fisherman (1963). Colin Thiele wrote around 100 works, including novels set in rural Australia such as Sun on the Stubble (1961), Storm Boy (1963) and Blue Fin (1969).

At this time, many writers sought to examine the relationship between people and the environment. For some, this included promoting reconciliation with Indigenous Australians and developing a greater appreciation of their relationship with the land.



In 1973, Patrick White (1912–90) became the first Australian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He published 12 novels, two short-story collections, eight plays, and works of non-fiction. Widely regarded as one of the major English language novelists of the 20th century, he had a love–hate relationship with his home country.White dealt with the established themes of Australian literature and was inspired by Australians’ relationship with the land. He drew deeply from, and illuminated, what he described as the average, boring, ordinary and ugly. His major works include The Aunt’s Story (1948), The Tree of Man (1955) and Voss (1957).


Australia has a long tradition of verse and poetry. The bush ballads of Henry Lawson and Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864–1941) have become deeply ingrained in Australian history and culture. Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda (1895) is one of Australia’s most famous songs and has been considered at times as an alternative to Australia’s national anthem. Paterson also wrote the classic ballad The Man from Snowy River, which has been made into several films, a television series and a stage musical. CJ Dennis’s narrative The Sentimental Bloke (1915) remains another favourite for its use of Australian vernacular.

Poet Christopher Brennan (1870–1932), whose collections of verse appeared between 1897 and 1918, is a legendary figure in Australian literature, though artistically he stood apart from the nationalism of the time, exploring more universal themes. Among Australia’s better known poets are Dame Mary Gilmore (1865–1962), Kenneth Slessor (1901–71), Robert D Fitzgerald (1902–87), AD Hope (1907–2000), Rosemary Dobson (born 1920), Gwen Harwood (1920–95), Bruce Dawe (born 1930), Thomas Shapcott (born 1935) and Les Murray (born 1938).

Judith Wright (1915–2000), whose poetry collections include The Moving Image, Woman to Man, The Two Fires, Birds, The Other Half and Shadow, explored the themes of environmental conservation and Aboriginal rights.


Writers Helen Garner and Robert Dessaix have received considerable critical acclaim for some of their non-fiction work. In 2004, Anna Funder won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for her book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, which has been described as ‘a lyrical and quirky examination of one of the world’s most paranoid and secretive regimes’.

One of Australia’s best-known and award-winning playwrights is David Williamson, whose plays The Removalists and Don’s Party established his reputation in Australia and overseas. He has written nearly 30 plays and contributed to many films and television productions. Other leading playwrights include Alex Buzo, Louis Nowra and Hannie Rayson.

Prominent expatriate writers who have achieved international recognition yet retain strong ties with Australia include Germaine Greer, Geoffrey Robertson, Shirley Hazzard, Robert Hughes, Clive James and Peter Porter.


According to a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (the latest available), there were 234 book publishers in Australia and 10 other businesses that generated $2 million or more a year in book publishing. They sold a total of 128.8 million books, generating a total income of around $1.6 billion.Australian book publishers range from major organisations such as HarperCollinsPublishers Australia to smaller or more specialist imprints and companies that help authors to self‑publish.

HarperCollinsPublishers was formed in 1989 with the amalgamation of three publishing houses—Harper and Row (United States), William Collins (United Kingdom) and Angus and Robertson (Australia). Other major publishers include Penguin Books Australia and Random House Australia. Smaller or more specialist publishers include university imprints such as Melbourne University Publishing, University of Queensland Press, Allen and Unwin, Griffin Press and Text Publishing.

In October 2007, 69 Australian exhibitors participated in the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest publishing industry fair.Australia has a vibrant culture of literary journals, including Meanjin, Quadrant, Island, Heat and Westerly.


There are more than 30 literary awards in Australia, including major government-funded prizes and specialist competitions.The most well-known include the annual Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Australian/Vogel Literary Award. The Miles Franklin Award, now worth around $42 000, was bequeathed by the will of Australian novelist Miles Franklin for ‘a published novel or play portraying Australian life in any of its phases’.The Vogel Award is Australia’s richest award for an unpublished manuscript ($20 000) and has helped launch the careers of some of Australia’s most successful writers. The Barbara Jefferis Award ($35,000), instituted in 2007, honours Australian novels that depict women in a positive light.Four state governments—New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia—also fund annual literary prizes and the Australian Government has announced a Prime Minister’s Literary Prize for fiction and non-fiction books, with each of the two annual prizes worth $100 000.


Australian authors have won many international awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature (Patrick White, 1973), the Man Booker Prize (Thomas Keneally, 1982; Peter Carey, 1988 and 2001; DBC Pierre, 2003) and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (Geraldine Brooks, 2006).Adam Lindsay Gordon is the only Australian with a bust in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.Three Australians have received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry: Michael Thwaites in 1940, Judith Wright in 1991, and Les Murray in 1998.


Since Patrick White, Australia has produced a steady stream of outstanding novelists. Many have set their characters and narratives in Australia, although some have also achieved success with stories based in Asia, Europe and North America.Thomas Keneally’s novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. In 1982, Keneally won the Man Booker Prize with Schindler’s Ark, about a businessman who saved Jews in the Holocaust, a story which Stephen Spielberg made into the film Schindler’s List in 1993.Christopher Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously (1978), based on the experience of an Australian journalist in Jakarta during the fall of the Sukarno regime, was also made into a film, directed by Peter Weir.Elizabeth Jolley (1923–2007) wrote novels and short-story collections, including the 1986 Miles Franklin Award winner The Well.Peter Carey won the Man Booker in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang.

David Malouf was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for his novel Remembering Babylon (1993), set in northern Australia in the 1850s. Malouf has also written a number of other award-winning novels, including Johnno, Fly Away Peter and An Imaginary Life; libretti for three operas; several volumes of poetry; three collections of short stories; and a play, Blood Relations (1988).Tim Winton is one of Australia’s best-known novelists, writing for adults and children. In 1995 his novel The Riders was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He won the Miles Franklin Award three times: for Shallows (1986), Cloudstreet (1991) and Dirt Music (2002), which was also short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He published The Turning: Stories in 2006.Another Australian winner of the Man Booker Prize is DBC Pierre, for Vernon God Little in 2003.Former Australian journalist Geraldine Brooks has enjoyed international acclaim and popularity with Nine Parts of Desire (1994) and Year of Wonders (2001). Her novel March won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 2006, Kate Grenville’s historical novel The Secret River was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.


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