Paul Giles is a critic for whom it is important where he lives, although not so much in terms of location as of literary and imaginative perspectives. He began as an Americanist literary scholar, in voluntary exile from the United Kingdom, where he was trained, writing about the global remapping of American literature and, more recently, having moved to Australia, about Australasia’s constitution of American literature. He likes redrawing the critical maps of literary study, but also following the reverse and inverted orbits of writers themselves. Part of this impulse includes rethinking the hemispheres. Giles’s book about Australasia and US literature, for example, was titled Antipodean America (ABR, August 2014). If it wasn’t too much of a mouthful, you’d say he was a serial re-territorialiser.... (read more)
Galileo and Kepler went down in history for prising European science from the jaws of medieval mysticism and religion. But where was England’s equivalent? Newton would not make his mark for another century. Surely the free-thinking Elizabethans also had a scientific star?
They did: Thomas Harriot (c.1560–1621). Most of us have never heard of him, for Harriot did not publish his findings. His day job was teaching navigation to Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship captains. Queen Elizabeth’s favourite was intent on colonising North America for the Crown. But it was also down to Harriot’s personality: retiring, cautious, and meticulous.... (read more)
At last, books about Such is Life and its endearingly attractive, quixotically sophisticated author, Joseph Furphy, are coming out. Three in the last few months is a welcome harvest, certainly a happier response than Furphy got during the prolonged Wilcannia showers of his life.... (read more)
In November 2001, the United States – along with Australia and its other allies – prepared to embark on the now notorious military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time, some effort was made to justify these actions to the American public. It fell to Laura Bush, the First Lady, to deliver the apparently feminist case ...... (read more)
The left has an appalling habit of handing over its best ideas to the right. A non-exhaustive list might include: the ideal of common citizenship, anti-tribalism, belief in artistic quality, ribald humour, irony, working-class solidarity, the existence of disinterested truth. Free speech – the rallying cries of radical Berkeley students in the 1960s – is now typ ...
Democracy won the Cold War. As East Germans breached the Berlin Wall in November 1989 to screams of joy, a young KGB officer watched the concrete crash to the ground. Systematically, he destroyed sensitive Soviet diplomatic papers in the East Berlin embassy. Ten years later, that KGB officer, Vladimir Putin ...... (read more)
Manning Clark rescued Australian history from blandness and predictability by making Australia a cockpit in which the great faiths of Europe continued their battle, with results that were distinctive. He concentrated on the great characters who were bearers of one of the faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, or the Enlightenment.... (read more)
When John Hirst accepted the challenge of writing a history of Federation of scholarly quality but fit for a broad popular readership, he may have felt himself on a hiding to nothing. Previous historians have succeeded in convincing Australians that the story of the making of the Australian Commonwealth is at best dull.... (read more)
The Birth of Ethics is a remarkably ambitious and innovative work by one of Australia’s most eminent philosophers. It is the full-length statement of an argument originally set out in Philip Pettit’s 2015 Berkeley Tanner Lectures on Human Values. The aim of the book is to ‘offer an account of ethics …... (read more)
Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee is a new collection of essays on J.M. Coetzee, perhaps the most important author of imaginative literature in the world today. Unifying the diverse strands of argument animating this thoughtful volume, the book’s editors, noted Coetzee scholars ...... (read more)