Robert Phiddian

Robert Phiddian

Robert Phiddian teaches literature at Flinders University and is specially interested in political satire, parody, and humour. He researches political satire, including current Australian political cartoons, with Haydon Manning. He is Chair of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, and has a particular interest in the quality of public language and in writers’ festivals. He is also Director of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Robert Phiddian reviews 'Alexander Pope in the Making' by Joseph Hone

August 2021, no. 434 22 July 2021
Robert Phiddian reviews 'Alexander Pope in the Making' by Joseph Hone
If you are looking for the perfect command of voice, Alexander Pope is your poet. It is not just desiccated eighteenth-century rationalists who say this, my Keats-scholar friend Will Christie thinks so too. This is despite the fact that there is zero negative capability in Pope, ‘when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reaso ... (read more)

Robert Phiddian reviews 'Drawing the Line: Using cartoons as historical evidence' edited by Richard Scully and Marian Quartly

April 2010, no 320 01 April 2010
Robert Phiddian reviews 'Drawing the Line: Using cartoons as historical evidence' edited by Richard Scully and Marian Quartly
It is no secret that scholarly publishing is between a rock and a hard place these days. The rock is the proliferation of titles demanded by university research quanta and government assessment exercises. The hard place is the endless tightening of library acquisitions budgets. The result is ever-shrinking print runs, ever-growing covert or explicit publication subsidies and a rational but extreme ... (read more)

Robert Phiddian reviews 'An Essay on Man' by Alexander Pope, edited by Tom Jones

December 2016, no. 387 30 November 2016
Robert Phiddian reviews 'An Essay on Man' by Alexander Pope, edited by Tom Jones
For the novice, Alexander Pope’s couplets can seem a numbing wilderness of equipoise – rhyme balanced against rhyme, half lines balanced around the caesura, regular iambs marching on to the end of pentametrical time (alternatively ‘to the edge of doom’). With a bit of experience as a reader, however, it is the wrought tension of Pope’s couplets that fascinates. The balance is only ever p ... (read more)

Robert Phiddian reviews 'Jonathan Swift: His life and his world' by Leo Damrosch

May 2014, no. 361 30 April 2014
Robert Phiddian reviews 'Jonathan Swift: His life and his world' by Leo Damrosch
Twelve years after Swift’s death, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu showed a visitor to her house in Venice a commode lined with books by Pope, Bolingbroke, and Swift. This, she explained, ‘gave her the satisfaction of shitting on them every day’. We still don’t know exactly what it was that caused her to fall out with Swift, Pope, and their friends in the 1720s, but there’s no questioning the e ... (read more)

Robert Phiddian reviews 'Taking Stock' edited by Mark Finnane and Ian Donaldson

June 2013, no. 352 27 May 2013
Robert Phiddian reviews 'Taking Stock' edited by Mark Finnane and Ian Donaldson
This is a highly intelligent collection of essays by some of the nation’s finest minds about the ebb and flow of intellectual endeavour in the humanities since the institution of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1969. In the thirty-one essays – built around keynotes, panels, and responses – there are too many gems among them for me to be willing to pick out individual contribution ... (read more)

Robert Phiddian reviews 'Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation' (Quarterly Essay 43) by Robert Manne

November 2011, no. 336 25 October 2011
Robert Phiddian reviews 'Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation' (Quarterly Essay 43) by Robert Manne
Were I Editor in Chief of The Australian for a day, the first thing I would do is can the ‘Cut and Paste’ section on the Letters page. Its schoolyard bullying of the fools and knaves idiotic enough to oppose the paper’s line – usual suspects include Fairfax journalists, the ABC, Greens politicians, Tim Flannery, and Robert Manne – lies at the heart of what stops The Australian from ... (read more)