Essays and Commentary

'Parasitic dictionaries and spam books' by Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A few years ago, Peter Austin and David Nathan, two Australian linguists working at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, discovered that their dictionary of Kamilaroi, an Aboriginal language of New South Wales, was for sale on Amazon. The only problem was that they had not put it there and it had someone else’s name on it. Philip M. Parker, having found their Kamilaroi/Ga ...

If you’re a theatregoer, then somewhere along the line you’re bound to have seen The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol’s comedy about a rapacious nobody being mistaken for a government official by the citizens of a nameless provincial backwater. (They too are nobodies, greedy to be somebodies.) You might remember (since it’s a line that will ...

This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (20–24 January) more than lived up to the Indian Ministry of Tourism’s slogan – ‘Incredible India’.

The festival was established in 2006 as a component of the Jaipur Virasat (Heritage) Festival, an arts event intended to showcase the varied and colourful Rajasthani culture. Performances of classical music and dance were held in the fore ...

Sonya Hartnett revisits 'A Difficult Young Man' by Martin Boyd

Sonya Hartnett
Monday, 27 February 2012

Few writers, it could be argued, have ever cannibalised life for their art as ruthlessly and consistently as did Martin Boyd; and few are born into situations which lend themselves so readily to art. Boyd’s working life – indeed, much of his entire existence – was spent trying to unite the past with the present, the old world with the new, himself with the man ...

Every day for the past few months, the Sydney linguist Michael Walsh has been sitting in the Mitchell Library poring over old manuscripts. He is extracting old wordlists of Aboriginal languages from the library’s rich collection of early British settler diaries, missionary field notes, and unpublished historical documents for a project funded by the State Library of New South Wales and Rio Ti ...

Morag Fraser: 'Fear and loathing in American politics'

Morag Fraser
Monday, 23 January 2012

The Princeton Post Office, as befits this famed university town, has a certain grandeur. It is small – Princeton is a village after all – and modest in its proportions, but grand in aspiration. As you step through its panelled doors your gaze is drawn by the long parade of milk-glass and bronze lights towards the mural that adorns the far wall. Like the White Ho ...

I first discovered Australian literature in Argentina. While I was there studying Argentinian literature at the University of Buenos Aires in 2009–10, I spent many nights hunched over the table in our dingy kitchen with one of my housemates, Teresa. We would pick over the politically infused vernacular of the short stories ...

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We are on the verge of another revolution in dictionary-making. Since the seventeenth century there have been three major revolutions in lexicographic practice. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey produced the first monolingual English dictionary, which was – radically – arranged alphabetically. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson employed literary citations to illus ...

 On 8 September 2010, in the foyer of the Robert Blackwood Hall at Monash University, beneath the beautiful ‘Alpha and Omega’ stained-glass window created by Leonard French and connoting humankind’s endless striving for achievement, Monash University ePress became Monash University Publishing. It was very appropriate that the press should be launched by B ...

Christina Stead is an author perennially ripe for rediscovery. Her acknowledged masterpiece, The Man Who Loved Children, came out originally in 1940; in 2005, it figured in Time’s list of the 100 best novels published since 1923. But in his introduction to the Miegunyah Modern Library edition of the novel, American novelist Jonathan Franzen cites ...