Tony Hughes d'Aeth

Tony Hughes-d'Aeth on Australia's literary regionalism

The ABR Podcast
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Is it possible to parse Australian writers by states and territories? In today's episode, Tony Hughes-d'Aeth – Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Western Australia – speculates about new ways of contemplating Australian writers through the lens of regionalism. As he writes in his upcoming essay 'Thinking in a regional accent: New ways of contemplating Australian writers': 'Yes, we are divided into states and territories, but are these anything other than lines on a map, drawn with a ruler and a set square, and the occasional river? The contrast between the political map of Australia and the now iconic AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia graphically exposes the poverty of the Australian regional imagination and the essential irreality of our territorial demarcations. More particularly, for someone like me, is it right to conceive of Australia in terms of literary regions?'

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Who would have guessed that a rejuvenation of regional difference might be triggered by a plague? Cosmopolitan Melbourne became the epicentre of what Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the ‘Victorian wave’. Borders, the leitmotif of Australian politics since Tampa, suddenly became internal. My own state of Western Australia was sued for breach of the Australian Constitution for maintaining its ‘hard’ internal borders. Wonted barbs flowing between states now felt just a little personal. Interstate rivalry in Australia is not uncommon, with familiar stoushes over GST share, the Murray– Darling Basin, the location of naval shipbuilding, and the hosting of sporting events. But the idea that Australia has internal borders, not just to check fruit but to stop the movement of people, Australian people, is something that has only emerged with Covid-19.

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John Kinsella tends to be a polarising figure, but his work has won many admirers both in Australia and across the world, and I find myself among these. The main knocks on Kinsella are that he writes too much, that what he does write is sprawling and ungainly, and that he tends to editorialise and evangelise. One might concede all of these criticisms, but then still be faced with what by any estimation is a remarkable body of work, one that is dazzling both in its extent and its amplitude, in the boldness of its conceptions and in the lyrical complexity of its moments. An element that tends to be overlooked in Kinsella, both as a writer and as a public figure, is his compassion. What it means to be compassionate, rather than simply passionate, is a question that underpins Kinsella’s memoir Displaced: A rural life.

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‘We’ll be going this earth’: an environmental survey

Lynette Russell, et al.
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

To complement the reviews and commentaries in our Environment issue, we invited a number of writers and scholars to nominate a book that will give readers a better appreciation of the environment.

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2017 Books of the Year

Australian Book Review
Sunday, 26 November 2017

To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.

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A survey of environmental writing

Australian Book Review
Thursday, 28 September 2017

To complement our coverage of new books on the subject, we invited a number of writers, scholars, and environmentalists to nominate the books that have had the greatest effect on them from an environmental point of view.

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Tony Hughes-d’Aeth reviews 'Taboo' by Kim Scott

Tony Hughes-d'Aeth
Tuesday, 25 July 2017

When a new novel from Kim Scott appears, one feels compelled to talk not only about it as a work of fiction by a leading Australian writer, but also about its cultural significance. In this sense a Kim Scott novel is an event, and Taboo does not disappoint ...

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Tim Winton is embarrassing to Australian literary critics. It is not that it is impossible to form adequate literary judgements about the nature of his work. It is simply that any judgements one might form seem so totally irrelevant. Winton’s work makes plain a certain disconnect between the interests and imperatives of Australian literary criticism and those of t ...

In his Epilogue to this major study of the West Australian wheatbelt and its writers, Tony Hughes-d’Aeth describes his work. With no ‘exact precedent’ in Australian scholarship, it is ‘best thought of as an amalgam of literary history, literary sociology and literary geography’. To achieve this, Hughes-d’Aeth traces the idea of the wheatbelt through inte ...

‘A father is God to his son,’ declares the father in David Whish-Wilson’s story ‘The Cook’, just a split second before he is shot dead by his drug-dealing son. Thus begins this special edition of Westerly, which marks not only the magazine’s sixtieth year of publication but also the retirement of its two standing editors, ...