Literary Studies

American writer Gore Vidal was an intimate of political power. His grandfather was a US senator; his father served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Director of Air Commerce. When his mother remarried, to Hugh Auchincloss, Vidal obtained a descendant of Vice President Aaron Burr as a stepfather ...

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Ian Dickson reviews 'Tennessee Williams' bu John Lahr

Ian Dickson
Tuesday, 25 November 2014

For a man who has repeatedly been described as America’s greatest playwright, Tennessee Williams’s reputation has fluctuated as wildly as his notorious mood swings. In the decade after the war he was celebrated. ‘Mr. Williams is the man of our time who comes closest to hurling the actual blood and bone of life onto the stage,’ wrote Walter Kerr of the first ...

Brenda Walker reviews 'Alex Miller' by Robert Dixon

Brenda Walker
Monday, 24 November 2014

We do nothing alone,’ writes Alex Miller, in his brief memoir ‘The Mask of Fiction’, where he gives an account of the generative processes of his writing. Art, according to Miller, comes from the capacity of the writer to ‘see ourselves as the other’. Early in his career, Miller’s friend Max Blatt woke him, in his farmhouse at Araluen, in order to dismis ...

Dennis Haskell reviews 'An Unsentimental Bloke'

Dennis Haskell
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Now and again it is good to remind ourselves that literary history (and I think the history of the other arts) is strewn with the names of those who had great stature in their own time and are now largely forgotten, and with the names of others for whom the reverse is true. William Blake, short of money, went to work for the much more admired poet William Hayley. Th ...

Delys Bird reviews 'Tim Winton: Critical Essays'

Delys Bird
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sitting, a few years ago, in the audience at a writers’ festival in the south-west of Western Australia, at a panel session hosted by Jennifer Byrne, I was struck by the widespread reaction to one of the panellists announcing that the book she had chosen to discuss was Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (now securely canonised as an ‘Australian national classic ...

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Critic in the Modern World'

Brian Matthews
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Aproaching Thomas Wyatt’s great but notoriously resistant poem ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot stalking in my chamber’, poet and critic Vincent Buckley wrote, ‘The sense of purposive yet mysterious activity created in this opening stanza is also a matter of its sensuousness … The critical problem is to define this … sensuou ...

Shakespeare’s great contemporary Ben Jonson dressed an actor in armour to open his play Poetaster. The Prologue explained:

If any muse why I salute the stage,
An armèd Prologue, know, ’tis a
dangerous age,
Wherein who writes had need present
his scenes
Forty-fold proof against the conjuring
means

Philip Mead reviews 'Antipodean America'

Philip Mead
Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Paul Giles has done important work reimagining North American literary history as allied rather than isolationist – revisioning American literature not as the definition of landlocked nation or exceptional homeland but as the product of transatlantic and continental traverses of forms and voices. In three books, Transatlantic Insurrections (2001), Atl ...

Australia and Modernity

Susan Lever
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

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 innova ...

The new biography of Jonathan Swift

Robert Phiddian
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Twelve years after Swift’s death, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu showed a visitor to her house in Venice a commode lined with books by Pope, Bolingbroke, and Swift. This, she explained, ‘gave her the satisfaction of shitting on them every day’. We still don’t know exactly what it was that caused her to fall out with Swift, Pope, and their friends in the 1720s, bu ...