Letters to the Editor

 Oz Lit at Melbourne University

Dear Editor,

The English program at the University of Melbourne has offered courses on Australian literature every year since 1982, when it was first introduced as a full seminar subject. Stephanie Guest’s article in last month’s issue of ABR, ‘Oz Lit in the Moot Court Room: Finding Australian Literature at the ...

Before Manning Clark

Dear Editor,

Norman Etherington’s lively review of Mark McKenna’s book on Manning Clark repeats the claim that Clark was ‘the first academic (in 1946) to offer a full-length course in Australian history’ (Decemb ...


Whither anthropology?

Dear Editor,

Emma Kowal’s review of my book (November 2011) is by and large a generous one, and yet it comes to some conclusions that I must reject. My view is not the same as the ‘anti-separatist ...


No statues for critics

Dear Editor,

I am sorry that Judith Armstrong should have such difficulty following my point that criticism is in some sense bound to fail because it is a secondary exercise (October 2010). It was Bartók, I think, who remarked that no one ever erected a statue in honour of ...

Sidestepping the ‘product’

Dear Editor,

Chris Flynn’s commentary (‘Claws out for a Writing Career’, October 2011) discusses the idea that some authors of literary fiction may be considering more commercially viable practices in order to remain relevant. I am a writer, but have also practised as a visual artist for ...

Declaring an interest

Dear Editor,

No doubt one of the spin-offs for those who commission and read book reviews is the jousting or arm-wrestling following the publication of a review that is contested by an aggrieved writer. An instance of such jousting appears in the


Mitchell revealed

Dear Editor,

Your reviewer of my publication Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell (July–August 2011) has not properly understood the book and its central arguments. Mitchell poses an historiographical challenge due to the scarcity of conventional biographical sources. Typical and superficial understand ...


Paradoxical neglect

Dear Editor,

Patrick McCaughey’s article ‘NativeGrounds and Foreign Fields: The Paradoxical Neglect of Australian Art Abroad’ (June 2011) caught my attention because of its title, then its content. The ...

Stuart Macintyre’s response to my letter (May 2011) acknowledges that in terms of ‘composition, character and loyalty’ – that is, the basic needs of nationalism – Australia defined itself for much of last century in British race terms. But he continues to define John Curtin’s Empire Council proposal as ‘pragmatic’, thus playing down not only Curtin’s patient efforts to win his party and the people over to his ideas, but also the broader point that because Australians defined themselves as British he could expect, through such a Council, that all the British world would unite to protect equally and fully all the British peoples, including Australia’s own distinctive interests, within the postwar Empire.

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Starched collars

Dear Editor,

Stuart Macintyre’s review of my book, Curtin’s Empire (April 2011), shows that on many of the substantive issues relating to the wartime leader’s world view we are on common ground. Macintyre notes that Curtin’s 1941 ‘Look to America’ statement was not in fact the first time that an Australian leader had appeale ...