Australia was colonised in the period of modernity, with the Industrial Revolution driving much of its development and a belief in improving technology and political progress underlying its public institutions. The society may have been modern but its culture, in particular its art and literature, has borne the recurrent charge of backwardness. The centres of innovation in twentieth-century art have been elsewhere, in the cosmopolitan cities of Europe or the United States of America, so that Australian critics and artists have carried a sense that to be distant from the centre also means to be behind the times. The gap between Australian modernity and its artistic partner and antagonist, modernism, has obsessed many Australian critics over the years; it is as if Australian art somehow ought to match the society’s technological progress as a matter of national pride.
Australia and Modernity
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Susan Lever is the author of David Foster: The Satirist of Australia (Cambria Press, 2008) and general editor of Cambria Press’s Australian Literature Series. She has published widely on Australian literary history and contemporary Australian fiction, and is currently conducting interviews with Australian television writers for the Australian Writers’ Foundation Oral History project. She is completing a book on Australian television dramatists. Susan Lever’s interviews with Australian screenwriters are accessible through the National Film and Sound Archive, samples can be found here.
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