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Harvard University Press

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.

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Indonesia is a difficult place to write about, because of its inherent complexity and the contested views that surround it. And then there is the sheer time that it takes to get to know the place, or at least to begin to know it, or parts of it. No one book can definitively come to terms with Indonesia’s scattered geography and dozens of cultures, its aliran (streams of influence), religious factions, social strata, degrees of development and competing interests. For these reasons, few authors or even edited collections try their hand at Indonesia as such, usually preferring to focus on an aspect of its vast and fragmentary complexity. This has been particularly so in the post-Suharto period, not least with the plethora of edited volumes that have sought to explain rapidly changing events there.

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