Imagining Australia collects nineteen essays from a 2002 conference on Australian literature and culture at Harvard University. Of course, as the proceedings of a conference, it is on occasion hard work. There is something about conferences – the dedication of their audiences, perhaps, or the vulnerability of their speakers – that encourages a somewhat defensive formality. That said, almost every essay in this collection repays a reader’s investment with interest: in describing the history of Australian literary journals; offering a new direction for Australian pastoral poetry; providing surprising perspectives on popular Australian myths; or looking at how contemporary poets use form.
As these examples suggest, Imagining Australia has no overriding theme or approach; this is perhaps why it appeals. It includes broad surveys and detailed studies, academic arguments and genial narratives. With this variety, it complicates and enlivens one’s sense of Australia’s history.