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 Backgazing: Reverse time in modernist culture (OUP, 2019).

Paul Giles reviews 'What is American Literature?' by Ilan Stavans

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
Paul Giles reviews 'What is American Literature?' by Ilan Stavans
Ilan Stavans is a professor of Humanities at Amherst College in Massachusetts, a native of Mexico City who is now a distinguished scholar of Latin American and Hispanic cultures. Here he turns his outsider’s gaze on the large question ‘What is American Literature?’ to productive if rather erratic effect. This is a strange book, one that purports to achieve an Olympian overview of an establis ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'Red Heaven: A fiction' by Nicolas Rothwell

October 2021, no. 436 23 September 2021
Paul Giles reviews 'Red Heaven: A fiction' by Nicolas Rothwell
Nicolas Rothwell is perhaps best known as a critic of art and culture for The Australian, though he has also published several non-fiction books, one of which, Quicksilver, won a Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2016. Red Heaven, subtitled a ‘fiction’, is only the second of Rothwell’s books not to be classified as non-fiction. Always straddling the boundary between different genres, Roth ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'Messing About in Boats' by Michael Hofmann

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
Paul Giles reviews 'Messing About in Boats' by Michael Hofmann
Michael Hofmann’s Messing About in Boats is based on his 2019 Clarendon Lectures at Oxford. This series, rather like the Clark Lectures at Cambridge or the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, offers a distinguished literary practitioner the opportunity to address a particular theme in a short sequence of interlinked lectures. Given that the form of oral delivery tends to preclude extensive ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War' by Michael Gorra

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Paul Giles reviews 'The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War' by Michael Gorra
André Gide, when asked who was the greatest French poet, is said to have replied ‘Victor Hugo, alas’, and many readers have responded in similar fashion to William Faulkner’s place in the history of the American novel. Werner Sollors, the eminent Harvard scholar of American Literature, unambiguously described Faulkner in 2003 as ‘ultimately the most significant American novelist of the [t ... (read more)

Paul Giles reviews 'J.M. Coetzee: Truth, meaning, fiction' by Anthony Uhlmann and 'A Book of Friends: In honour of J.M. Coetzee on his 80th birthday' edited by Dorothy Driver

August 2020, no. 423 24 July 2020
Paul Giles reviews 'J.M. Coetzee: Truth, meaning, fiction' by Anthony Uhlmann and 'A Book of Friends: In honour of J.M. Coetzee on his 80th birthday' edited by Dorothy Driver
Though it is his second country of citizenship, Australia might be classified as J.M. Coetzee’s fourth country of residence. He was born in South Africa and served as an academic at the University of Cape Town from 1972 to 2000; he lived in England between 1962 and 1965, where he studied for an MA thesis on Ford Madox Ford and worked as a computer programmer; and he then spent seven years in the ... (read more)

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

August 2019, no. 413 22 July 2019
Paul Giles reviews 'Permanent Revolution: The reformation and the illiberal roots of liberalism' by James Simpson
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
Paul Giles reviews 'Machines Like Me' by Ian McEwan
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
Paul Giles reviews 'A Season on Earth' by Gerald Murnane
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
Paul Giles reviews 'Love and Lament: An essay on the arts in Australia in the twentieth century' by Margaret Plant
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
Paul Giles reviews 'No End of a Lesson: Australia’s unified national system of higher education' by Stuart Macintyre, André Brett, and Gwilym Croucher
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)
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