Writing Tasmanian Lives Symposium

Launch and Winter Symposium – “Writing Tasmanian Lives”
22–24 June 2022 


About us 

Writing Lives is a new research program based in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania, harnessing existing expertise and building capacity in critical studies of life writing, biography, oral history, microhistory, history of ideas, memoir, and personal writing such as letters and diaries.  

Our program is working to foster dialogue about life writing as a form and genre that crosses disciplinary boundaries and embraces possibilities offered by texts, objects, and nonhuman as well as human lives. 

We are also working to engage community and cultural sector partners both within lutruwita/Tasmania and nationally in this exciting research area.  

The symposium 

To showcase the many possibilities offered by this field of research, we are delighted to announce the call for papers for our first symposium, to be held online over the afternoons of Wednesday 22, Thursday 23 and Friday 24 June 2022.  

In this symposium we turn our focus to the local as we examine the challenges presented by the discipline and practice of biography and life-writing in and about Tasmania and Tasmanians.  

The symposium program will encourage discussion about what is at stake – critically, creatively, historically, and ethically – in writing the life stories of Tasmanians, whether historically well-known or hitherto uncelebrated.  

We are especially interested in exploring the following questions: 

  • What does it mean to write biography in lutruwita/Tasmania, about its residents (living or dead) or about the lives that have influenced our state’s history?  
  • How can we make personal histories and biographies in lutruwita/Tasmania visible to the broader community?  
  • How do we connect local life stories to national and international histories and communities?  
  • How does lutruwita/Tasmania feature in both human and more-than-human life stories throughout history?  
  • What role do collectors and archivists play in documenting and understanding Tasmanian lives?  

Papers on the theme of Writing Tasmanian Lives, interpreted in its widest sense, drawing on scholarship and experience from the humanities, creative arts, social sciences, education, and natural science, and from other diverse fields such as library, museum, archives, and cultural studies, are encouraged.  

We also welcome papers that engage with broader questions about life writing and biography that go beyond the local context, such as: 

  • What is life writing and what forms should it take? 
  • Whose lives should we examine?  
  • How does the form of life-writing change with the needs of the subject? 
  • How can we celebrate diversity through life writing, amplifying the voices of people who have been pushed into the margins of history and literature? 
  • How can we decolonise biography? 
  • Where lives have not been thoroughly documented, how can we make imaginative use of archival material? 

Plenary events include a keynote address by Dr Jessica White (UniSA), about her work writing an ecobiography of Georgiana Molloy, and a panel conversation on writing Indigenous lives.More information about keynote speakers and events will be circulated closer to the date.

Proposal submissions and registration 

Please email abstracts and proposals (200 words approx.) for a 20-minute presentation by Thursday, 14 April 2022 to: writing.lives@utas.edu.au 

Submissions should also include your name, institutional affiliation where relevant, e-mail address, the title of your proposed paper, and a short bio (50 words approx.). 

We will advise if your proposal has been accepted for inclusion in the program and provide further details of the registration process.  

Event delivery and registration  

At time of writing, this will be an online event with panel sessions delivered via Zoom. 

If possible, some of the keynote plenary sessions and workshops will also take place in person in nipaluna/Hobart. Whether we proceed with any live components will be dependent on the COVID-19 situation and any restrictions that are in place, which will be considered nearer the time.  

For further information, do not hesitate to get in touch at writing.lives@utas.edu.au 

We look forward to receiving your submission.

Statement Regarding the Veto of Literary Studies ARC Grants

The recent decision by the acting Federal Minister for Education, Stuart Robert, to exercise his veto against four literary studies grants recommended to him by the Australian Research Council constitutes an attack on literary studies and literary culture in Australia. The only public justification that Robert provided for the apparently arbitrary process that led to this decision is that the projects “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest.” That two-thirds of the six censored grants should be in literary studies demonstrates a dismissive attitude to the value of the imagination and creativity.

Nor is this an isolated occurrence. Four years ago, the former education minister Simon Birmingham rejected eleven ARC projects recommended to him, all in the Humanities, including four from literary studies. The actions of the government reveal that it is committed to defunding Australia’s literary culture by overriding academic autonomy and determining what kinds of knowledge can and cannot be pursued. This is especially ironic given its recent campaign to defend freedom of speech on Australia’s campuses.

Blocking literary grants not only negates a central tenet of academic freedom – that truth be pursued without interference from the state – it degrades Australia’s cultural fabric. Australia is home to the world’s most ancient enduring literary tradition: the song cycles of our First Nations people. Literary representations have always shaped and influenced who we are or might be and have done so for every culture on the planet across humanity’s history. Understanding this rich fabric of representations is critical to our respectful global citizenship and our own self-understanding.

Please consider adding your signature and circulating the letter linked here to fellow scholars, writers, and others in industries connected to literature: https://bit.ly/32FpQmO

2021 AUHE Prize for Literary Scholarship

The winner of the 2021 AUHE Prize for Literary Scholarship is Paul Giles, for The Planetary Clock: Antipodean Time and Spherical Postmodern Fictions (Oxford University Press).

The judges commented:

Among an impressively strong and diverse field of nominated books, The Planetary Clock is preeminent by virtue of its authoritative engagement with theory and its outstandingly transnational and interdisciplinary range. Paul Giles includes insightful close readings of numerous works from not only various literary genres but also cinema, music, and the visual arts. While overtly eclectic, the book pointedly foregrounds authors and texts from Australia and New Zealand, which have been hitherto under-represented in surveys of postmodernism. Giles emphasises the potential of a more extensively conceived antipodean perspective to disorient conventional western understandings of temporal and spatial relations. Exploring the various ways in which temporality has been represented in postmodernism, the book is also intended to illuminate “the wider discursive framework, indicating ways in which ecology and biogenetics as well as religion are reconstituted in aesthetic terms.” In part a meditation on the Anthropocene, The Planetary Clock convincingly demonstrates the ethical obligation of cultural studies (most broadly defined) to intervene in the world’s most urgent debates.

The judges also congratulate the authors whose works were shortlisted:

Anne Collett and Dorothy Jones: Judith Wright and Emily Carr: Gendered Colonial Modernity (Bloomsbury)

This book is remarkable for its comparison of two women in different countries, from different times, working in different artistic media as they struggled in similar ways against patriarchal and colonialist attitudes across time and oceans. It draws on considerable delving into biographical detail and presents a clear investigation of both Judith Wright and Emily Carr as they formed their unique artistic visions, each of which changed as they grew older. The disparate materials are held together by the feminist framework, a focus on modernism including a pertinent “triangulation” with the writing of Virginia Woolf, and by the authors’ own stories in which their mothers are honoured. This is a solid work of scholarship which remains engaging for the reader.

Tanya Dalziell, Gail Jones: Word, Image, Ethics (Sydney University Press)

This is the first monograph on one of Australia’s most polished contemporary writers of fiction. It provides a lucid coverage of Jones’s output that is overtly informed by theory but is nonetheless expressed in clear language. Dalziell identifies the major themes of Jones’s oeuvre thus far, her book being sensibly organised into the topics: Weather; Time; Reading and Writing; Image; and Modernity. She ably shows how the texts which she analyses “lace and loop” images into patterns, and points profitably to how Jones wrestles with questions of ethics, concerning who can tell another’s story and to what extent reconciliation with others and with the past is possible.

Andrew Dean, Metafiction and the Postwar Novel: Foes, Ghosts, and Faces in the Water (Oxford University Press)

In this work, Andrew Dean provides a refreshing and much-needed re-evaluation of postmodern metafiction, or fiction that self-consciously addresses its status as fiction. Dean’s provocative starting point is that metafiction has been misunderstood as a mode of irony that detaches authors from their historical and political contexts. Deftly mixing archival research, social analysis and close reading, Dean shows how metafiction is a mode of literary thinking that is rooted in the particular: in the “personal, local, intimate.” He provides incisive and clear-sighted analysis of how J. M. Coetzee, Janet Frame and Philip Roth use self-consciously literary practices in their fiction to negotiate their personal, political and historical situations. The book expands our understanding of metafiction by approaching the genre with new maturity.

Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press)

In this comprehensive and illuminating introduction to a literary genre whose very descriptor may appear oxymoronic, the authors assert that prose poetry is “nothing less than the most important new poetic form to emerge in English-language poetry since the advent of free verse.” Although the book predominantly focuses on prose poetry produced in recent decades, the authors helpfully examine its antecedents in earlier forms of both poetry and prose. They suggest that prose poetry is flourishing in the present moment in a manner comparable to the emergence of the modern novel in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – indeed, that prose poetry may be the literary form through which the challenging conditions of our times will most appositely be expressed.

David McInnes, Shakespeare and Lost Plays: Reimagining Drama in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press)

Although David McInnes recommends that his book be read in conjunction with sections of the Lost Plays Database, of which he is a co-founder and editor, Shakespeare and Lost Plays independently offers a meticulously researched examination of a range of works which would have been familiar to London theatre audiences in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries but which, for a variety of reasons, have not survived. McInnes firmly challenges the conventional notion that the plays of this period which are no longer extant must have been inferior to those still accessible. He demonstrates how an awareness of the breadth of what was available to Shakespeare’s audiences refreshes our understanding of Shakespeare’s own works. As McInnes remarks, “Every extant play is deeply embedded in its repertorial moment”, being written and then performed not in isolation but rather within specific cultural and commercial contexts.

Matthew Sussman Stylistic Virtue and Victorian Fiction: Form, Ethics, and the Novel (Cambridge University Press)

Matthew Sussman fascinatingly connects two concepts that today’s reader would be more likely to oppose: style and virtue. Sussman’s striking claim in the book is that the verbal qualities of a text, even when considered separately from the text’s content, can have ethical or moral value. The book offers a new way of conceptualizing the ethical value of formalism by recovering how Victorian writers connected the ideas of virtue and style. One of its invaluable contributions to the field is to situate Victorian fiction in a long history of rhetorical criticism that takes Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric as its source of inspiration. In chapters that are both philosophically robust and painstakingly researched, Sussman establishes how stylistic virtues resemble moral virtues in providing a characterological ideal. If there is a moral to this intricately argued book, it might be “art for virtue’s sake.”

Judging Panel: Heather Neilson (Chair), Chris Danta, & Paul Sharrad

Shortlist announced for 2021 AUHE Prize for Literary Scholarship

The judging panel for the AUHE Prize for Literary Scholarship is delighted to announce the shortlist for 2021. There was a far greater number of nominated books than had been anticipated, and the panel was impressed by the considerable range and quality of the submissions. It has been a privilege to read all of these illuminating contributions to the field of literary studies.

In alphabetical order of authors’ surnames, the shortlist is as follows:

  • Anne Collett and Dorothy Jones, Judith Wright and Emily Carr: Gendered Colonial Modernity (Bloomsbury)
  • Tanya Dalziell, Gail Jones: Word, Image, Ethics (Sydney University Press)
  • Andrew Dean, Metafiction and the Postwar Novel (Oxford University Press)
  • Paul Giles, The Planetary Clock: Antipodean Time and Spherical Postmodern Fictions (Oxford University Press)
  • Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press)
  • David McInnes, Shakespeare and Lost Plays (Cambridge University Press)
  • Matthew Sussman, Stylistic Virtue and Victorian Fiction (Cambridge University Press)

Heather Neilson (Chair)
Paul Sharrad
Chris Danta

Lecturer – English Literature

Lecturer – English Literature
The University of Notre Dame Australia
Perth – CBD, Inner & Western Suburbs

$90,000 – $119,999
Full Time

Applications close: Wednesday 30 June 2021

For further information, or a confidential discussion about the position, please contact: Dr Leigh Straw | +61 8 9433 0926 | leigh.straw@nd.edu.au

For further information on how to apply contact Tara Hallissey – People & Culture at tara.hallissey@nd.edu.au or visit: http://www.notredame.edu.au/about/employment/how-to-apply

Updated Registration for Texts and their Limits: Australia’s Triennial Literary Studies Convention

Victoria University (20-24 July 2021)

The link for participants to register for the convention has changed. The new registration link is: https://engage.vu.edu.au/pub/pubType/EO/pubID/zzzz60b5b833da34f398/interface.html

Research-Only Continuing Positions In English Literature at Australian Catholic University

Positions are based at the Melbourne campus

Seeking further researchers in the discipline of English Literature
Full time, continuing position (Level C, Level D, and Level E).

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Melbourne is seeking further researchers (senior, mid and early career) of outstanding achievement in the discipline of English Literature to join its recently established Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences in continuing research-only positions *(see explanation note).

See also: https://www.acu.edu.au/research/our-research-institutes/institute-for-humanities-and-social-sciences

Under Director Professor Joy Damousi, the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences will support ACU’s continued growth and success in the key disciplines of History, Political Science, Sociology and Literature.

Applicants should hold a Ph.D. in English Literature. Successful candidates will have a demonstrated record of conducting outstanding research in English Literature appropriate to the level for which they are applying.

General enquiries can be sent to Professor Peter Holbrook, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at Peter.Holbrook@acu.edu.au.

Equal Opportunity and Privacy of personal information is University policy. For more details visit: http://www.acu.edu.au/careers

Applications close: Tuesday 13 July 2021; 11:55PM AEST

The 2020 AUHE Prize in Literary Scholarship Announced

Congratulations to Paul Sharrad, winner of the 2020 AUHE Prize for Literary Scholarship for his study Thomas Keneally’s Career and the Literary Machine (Anthem Press). The judges commented:

Paul Sharrad’s Thomas Keneally’s Career and the Literary Machine is a highly engaging, deeply researched and richly sourced analysis of Keneally’s multi-faceted career and its shifting reception in Australia and abroad. As Sharrad suggests, Keneally actively courted both commercial and critical success that would test Australian readers’ fondness for ‘Our Tom’ and an understanding of what constitutes literary greatness.  Working at the interface of celebrity studies, literary history and literary biography, Sharrad’s unpacking of Keneally’s career persuasively demonstrates that Bourdieu’s theories of the field and literary values cannot be wholly transposed to modern Australia. Sharrad reveals a complex and often contrary development of a writer and his reputation, not only troubling critical presumptions of connection or cohesion between textual output but also illuminating the other, more elusive sides of the literary machinery that shapes the way we value and use literature.

The judges also praised the extremely strong shortlist with the following comments:

Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver’s The Colonial Kangaroo Hunt (The Miegunyah Press) investigates the prominence of the kangaroo in the colonial imaginary and how its textual and material pursuit informed settler-colonial understandings of the animal, the country, and the Aboriginal people. Elegantly synthesising a wide range of written and visual material, Gelder and Weaver track the role of the kangaroo as novelty, as fulcrum to shifting settler-Aboriginal relations, as source of sport and amusement, and as Romantic trope of sympathy and melancholy. The study tracks how fiction (across all genres) and art navigated the importation of European hunting practices, making the kangaroo hunt a touchstone in understanding colonial erasure, education and economy.  

Focusing on the under-explored millennial years, Emily Potter’s Writing Belonging at the Millennium: Notes from the Field on Settler-Colonial Place (Intellect) examines the role of the novel in navigating non-indigenous forms of belonging in Australia at the turn of the current century. Potter argues that literary texts were performatively active in shaping the ways in which non-indigenous Australians related to place and inhabited it. Potter suggests that their spatialized imaginaries both debate and trouble colonial logics and practices while providing a means for social and political alternatives to emerge. Potter further demonstrates how cultural anxieties and dissonances intersected in these novels with an awareness of the limits of narrative and its conventions. Potter impresses that stories alone cannot undo the damage of settler-colonialism or develop new conditions but that they remain important in acknowledging patterns of thought and the complicity of poetics, as well as contributing to unfolding a more sustainable and ethical future.

Locating Australian Literary Memory (Anthem Press) investigates how the commemoration of writers contributes to the mythos of Australian identity. Through place-based research and extensive archival work, Brigid Magner analyses the relationship between literary place and the real, discussing how Australian literary heritage has developed out of European models and cultural nationalism. Magner’s study is particularly important in demonstrating the role of communities of readers and literary organisations in sustaining the memory of Australian imaginary through material traces and monumental forms, and performatively through ritual. As Magner explores, this process is tied to the settler-colonial project and focused on quite narrow forms of legacy. Her study undertakes valuable groundwork to reconceptualise and decolonise cultural memory.

In Christina Stead and the Matter of America (Sydney University Press), Fiona Morrison argues that Stead’s American novels reveal her as one of the greatest political women writers of the mid-twentieth century. Despite the critical attention that has been paid to Stead off and on over the past forty years, Morrison’s monograph is the first to substantially focus on Stead’s engagement with the United States. While demonstrating how five of Stead’s major novels navigate the relationship between gendered experience and the modern economy, Morrison also examines a paradigmatic shift in Stead’s aesthetics from modernism to a reconceptualised social realism. Morrison also persuasively argues that through reading Stead’s work, we may better understand the broader transnational relationship between Australia and America, particularly in terms of gender and colonialism.

In J.M. Coetzee: Truth, Meaning, Fiction (Bloomsbury Academic), Anthony Uhlmann posits that Coetzee’s works can be viewed as a series of philosophical provocations and that Coetzee’s method might itself best be understood as a provocation, in that it leads to thought, insight, or gestures towards that which is otherwise excluded. Uhlmann unpacks Coetzee’s understanding of fiction as a means to truth but also how there may be fictions of the truth, with the very telling of the story creating truths. Uhlmann also considers Coetzee’s exploration of creative intuition. Carefully reading Coetzee’s approach against major philosophical approaches to knowledge and form, Uhlmann tracks the development of Coetzee’s writing methodology from the days of his dissertation and engagement with Beckett’s archive. He then journeys through Coetzee’s oeuvre to analyse the author’s methodology in action.

The judges also commended Joseph Cummins for The ‘Imagined Sound’ of Australian Literature and Music (Anthem Press). With a great deal of interdisciplinary innovation, this monograph analyses the soundscape of post-World War II literature and music. Cummins persuasively demonstrates the role of sound in creating resonances within geo-imaginaries while also considering the diversity of sound and forms of listening.

2019 AUHE Prize in Literary Scholarship Judges Report

Panel: Ann Vickery (Chair), Tom Clark, Ben Etherington


Guy Davidson, Categorically Famous: Literary Celebrity and Sexual Liberation in 1960s America

In his deep study of the careers and work of James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, and Gore Vidal, Guy Davidson demonstrates how their negotiation of literary celebrity was integrally tied to their sexual identity, something that was part of enabling a new openness about homosexuality in the 1960s. By leading a paradigmatic shift in the understanding of sexual identities, all three, Davidson argues, generated a proto-visibility that would test mechanisms of social control and set an example for broader liberation. Davidson also challenges current understandings of the intersection between public and private in celebrity studies through analysing the limits around sexual disclosure in the 1960s. Breaking with the orthodoxy that posits sexual identity categories as only ever coercive, Davidson boldly argues for their critical and political value. Carefully and elegantly written, immaculately researched, and highly accessible, Categorically Famous makes an important contribution to a number of new interdisciplinary fields while always staying attentive to the role of literature in reconceptualising the social.  


Chris Danta, Animal Fables after Darwin: Literature, Speciesism, and Metaphor
Animal Fables after Darwin offers a series of close readings of modern literary responses to fables and the fabulous, focusing in particular on the role of metaphor. It uses the ideological and aesthetic differences between texts to reveal a gulf between understandings of animal experience and potential “before” and “after” Darwin. Danta argues persuasively that the fable has an important role to play as a vehicle for the critique of transcendence and a reconsideration of the human’s biological context. Animal Fables after Darwin is extremely approachable without in any way detracting from the sophistication of its argument.

Alys Moody, The Art of Hunger: Aesthetic Autonomy and the Afterlives of Modernism

In The Art of Hunger, Alys Moody deftly combines aesthetic theory, thick historical description, and close literary analysis to argue that key modernist and late modernist writers were drawn to representing hunger for its capacity both to embody some of modernity’s deep-lying contradictions and to explore the limits of liberatory claims that often attach to aesthetic autonomy. For Moody, the ‘art of hunger’ cannot pretend to solve hunger, but it can help us to understand the existential crisis that artistic practice confronts in the face of avoidable starvation.

Simone Murray, The Digital Literary Sphere: Reading, Writing, and Selling Books in the Internet Era

Simone Murray’s The Digital Literary Sphere is a much-needed study of the way online spaces of literary reception have expanded, remediated, and redefined literary tastes and markets. It lays out clearly how this domain has largely gone untheorised before developing a sophisticated and comprehensive conceptual model for analysing it. This is then deployed to great effect in a series of wide-ranging studies that themselves present a model for further scholarship in this field.

Brigid Rooney, Suburban Space, the Novel and Australian Modernity              

Suburban Space, the Novel and Australian Modernity is a highly absorbing investigation into the role of the novel in mediating urbanisation and the everyday. Through rich contextual framing and elegant close textual analysis, Rooney considers how engagements with Australian and global modernities were channelled through a suburban imaginary and the layered affective registers associated with the domestic environment. Engaging with mobile and new subjectivities, transformative technologies, and Indigenous perspectives, Suburban Space provides a new understanding of the significance of fictional narrative in Australian self-fashioning.


The judges would also like to commend the exemplary care taken by Elizabeth Pender and Cathryn Setz in producing their beautiful edited volume Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’s Modernism.

2018 AUHE Judges Report

Winner: Ben Etherington, Literary Primitivism

Literary Primitivism is a highly ambitious and brave work of criticism in which Ben Etherington argues persuasively for a reconceptualization of the project of primitivism and a re-evaluation of its significance. Distinguishing it from modernism and expressionism, Etherington demonstrates how primitivism was historically delineated across both the West and non-West and took on multiple forms of appearance. In limpid prose, Etherington argues that primitivism was mobilised by a longing for social worlds that were not structured by a totalising form of capitalism and that held to a decolonial horizon. Through admirable slow readings of major literary figures like Aimé Césaire, Franz Fanon, D.H. Lawrence, and Claude McKay, Etherington demonstrates how literary primitivism was an aesthetic practice and project that sought to unite authentic immediate experience and reflection. That is, he shows how it sought to revive the remnants of “primitive” social realities all the while cognisant of their very impossibility. In establishing precise historical parameters for the concept of literary primitivism, Etherington acknowledges that questions remain around aspects of gender and sexuality in the pursuit of immediacy. Finally, Etherington suggests that the rise in literary primitivism parallels the current theoretical resurgence in world literature. Indeed, he argues that it marks the transformation of world literature from a positive and anticipatory concept to one that is negative and utopic.

Runner-Up: Julian Murphet, Faulkner’s Media Romance

In Faulkner’s Media Romance, Julian Murphet demonstrates how Faulkner’s texts renegotiate the novel’s debt to the genre of romance by troping romance in the language of modern mediatic technologies. Murphet identifies two sources of Faulkner’s narrative innovation: a rhetoric of absent events and a new mediatic tropology that reinvents or masks romance. In consistently beautiful prose, Murphet explores the significance of romance as an often-disavowed kernel of the novel and narrative impulse itself. He argues that while romance persistently underscores the South’s understanding of its own historical and regional difference, it also informed new cultural economies of nation and the modern that undoes such particularity. Murphet argues that Faulkner’s modernism borrows from a transforming media ecology in order to understand a transformation of his life-word. The resulting radical uncanniness demonstrates both an affective pull and ambivalence towards romance. This volume persuasively argues that Faulkner’s modernism heralds a new aesthetic regime and offers a means to navigate the fate of localism and understand more systemic phenomena. Through subtle readings of Faulkner, it re-theorises modernism, American literary history and literature’s relation to modern technology.