Literary Studies

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Tim Winton: Critical Essays edited by Lyn McCredden and Nathanael O’Reilly

by
October 2014, no. 365

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 ...

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

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 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 ...

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 ...

If you’re a bookish type of a certain age, chances are you went through your Iris Murdoch period. You binged on novels such as The Black Prince (1973) and The Sea, The Sea (1978); you immersed yourself in her world of perplexed, agonised souls searching for meaning, falling disastrously in love with absurdly wrong people, consoling themselves with a ...