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Paul Giles

Paul Giles

Paul Giles is Professor of English in the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne. His most recent book is The Planetary Clock: Antipodean time and spherical postmodern fictions (OUP, 2021).

Paul Giles reviews 'Permanent Revolution: The reformation and the illiberal roots of liberalism' by James Simpson

August 2019, no. 413 22 July 2019
The argument of James Simpson’s Permanent Revolution is that the emergence of liberalism as a cultural and political category in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was shaped by the ‘radically illiberal history of Protestantism’. Rather than adhering to the ‘triumphalist’ tradition of Whig historiography that regarded the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and its subsequent Bill of Rights ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'Machines Like Me' by Ian McEwan

May 2019, no. 411 21 April 2019
Ian McEwan’s new novel imagines an alternative history of England in the 1980s, one in which Argentina won the Falklands War and Margaret Thatcher was subsequently trounced at the polls. It also projects an alternative narrative of scientific progress, one in which the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing did not die in 1954, victimised because of his homosexuality, but instead lived on into a ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'A Season on Earth' by Gerald Murnane

April 2019, no. 410 25 March 2019
A Season on Earth is the original version of Gerald Murnane’s second published novel, A Lifetime on Clouds, which appeared in 1976. The story behind this book’s publication is now well known, thanks to interviews Murnane has given and the author’s ‘foreword’ to this edition, where he relates how he reluctantly cut his manuscript in half to fit with Heinemann editor Edward Kynaston’s vi ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'Love and Lament: An essay on the arts in Australia in the twentieth century' by Margaret Plant

June-July 2018, no. 402 24 May 2018
Love and Lament offers a bracingly revisionist and upbeat account of how the arts flourished across a broad cultural spectrum in Australia over the course of the twentieth century. Margaret Plant, an emeritus professor of the visual arts at Monash University, argues explicitly with the thesis propounded by Keith Hancock, Donald Horne, and others that Australian cultural taste was ‘conservative a ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'No End of a Lesson: Australia’s unified national system of higher education' by Stuart Macintyre, André Brett, and Gwilym Croucher

January–February 2018, no. 398 22 December 2017
Ever since Henry VIII plundered the monasteries, relations between those in seats of power and learning have tended to be fraught, since political administrators do not take kindly to scholars thinking they know best how to run their own affairs, and vice versa. No End of a Lesson chronicles, in a relatively neutral and detached manner, events leading to the unification of Australia’s higher edu ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'A Long Way from Home' by Peter Carey

November 2017, no. 396 25 October 2017
On learning that the premise of Peter Carey’s new novel involved a test of automobile reliability on a round trip across Australia, my first response was to dismiss it as a thin conceit for encompassing the country’s remoter landscape within a work of the imagination. The internet, however, quickly delivered old Pathé newsreels revealing not only that this Redex Trial was a demonstrable histo ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the lost age of the exotics' by Jamie James

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
Described in one of the blurbs on its back cover as ‘a cabinet of wonders for lovers of faraway countries,’ Jamie James’s The Glamour of Strangeness is unusual in terms of the wide variety of the material it covers. James focuses here on artists who left their homelands ‘to create a new self in a new place’, arguing that the ‘exotic’ aesthetics wrought by these adventurous exiles res ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 9: The world novel in English to 1950' edited by Ralph Crane, Jane Stafford, and Mark Williams

April 2017, no. 390 23 March 2017
The latest instalment in the Oxford History of the Novel in English is notable for having one of its editors based in Australia and the other two in New Zealand. As these editors admit in their introduction, this volume is ‘something of a hybrid when set alongside the other eleven volumes that make up the series’, since it is organised partly by historical date, tracing ‘the World Novel in E ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'D.H. Lawrence's Australia: Anxiety at the edge of empire' by David Game

June–July 2016, no. 382 24 May 2016
When D.H. Lawrence arrived in Australia on 4 May 1922, he was so ignorant of the country's actual conditions that he was, as David Game observes in his fine new book, expecting to arrive 'in late spring and find apple blossom'. Game's extensively researched and informative monograph recounts ways in which Australia operated for Lawrence mainly as a utopian idea, a potential site for 'regenerative ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'The Invention of Nature' by Andrea Wulf

March 2016, no. 379 24 February 2016
Alexander von Humboldt, who died in 1859 at the age of eighty-nine, was not only the most famous scientist of his day but also one of the world's best-known figures. He met often with political leaders, from Thomas Jefferson in the new United States to King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, and he expanded outwards from his bases in Paris and Berlin to pursue various scientific expeditions, partic ... (read more)
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