My experience with Australian literature has been limited, due to my interests and international education. However, this course encouraged me to engage with Aus Lit and deepened my appreciation for both the literature and our country.
The semester began by reviewing works by explorers Mitchell and D.H. Lawrence. These men saw the Australia untouched by colonisation, but through the eyes of what was to come. They both saw potential for the Australian land, and acknowledged its beauty, albeit differently. It was the first of many times during the semester that we had to consider the beauty of Australian nature in own right, as ‘unkept’ as it is. Like Mitchell and Lawrence, we were all taking our first tentative steps into the world of Australian literature.
Next was Aboriginal Literature, including Kim Scott’s Dead Man Dance. This coincided with my course on Aboriginal History, and I spent much of the first half of the semester absorbing Aboriginal culture. Taking the history class simultaneously contexutalised comprehend the works we were reading in this class. Dead Man Dance although a moving read, was not my new favorite book (the lack of speech marks! Why Scott, Why?), but it helped me incorporate the idea of Aboriginal agency in the past.
Art Gallery week was an interesting one. I’d never considered art in relation to literature. Sure I’ve looked a movies and picture books in that context, but never stand alone art. I don’t know how though, who could not look at Eugene von Guerard’s Milford Sound and not consider it a work of absolute poetry!
In the study of the 19th Century, the landscape dominated the literature. Louisa Anne Meredith’s description of “craggy amphitheaters” still haunts me. What a simple yet spectacular imagery! My blog on the Cliffs of Moher although not set in Australia, reflects feelings of being overwhelmed by a landscape.
We studied two different poems called Australia, whilst tittled the same, they portray different experiences of same place. I attempted to assemble the thoughts we had in class on Bernard O’Dowd’s complicated poem to assist future struggling poetry enthusiasts.
In week 8 we moved to the 20th Century. M. Bernard Eldershaw’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomomorrow by was a piece that took me by surprise. It opened up a realm of possibility for Australian fiction for me. I like fiction for it’s unlimited potential and Tomorrow is a great example of this. The vivid descriptions really stuck with me, especially after I found this artwork when writing my blog on Tomorrow and Macbeth.
Next we examined Patrick White and his incredible skill for the ‘Mythopoetical’. This term, albeit new to me, is the idea of identifying the incredible in the ordinary, as White does with Down in the Dumps. He has the knack for making everyday events seem interesting by drawing out the souls of his characters.
Judith Beveridge’s lecture was a fascinating insight into the process of poetry writing. Having her break down her work and her thought process really helped me appreciate how much work goes in to writing each piece.
Finally we reached David Malouf’s Fly away Peter. I’ve never read a book that was closer to poetry than novel, but I read this in one sitting. I even attempted my own Malouf-esque sentence.
There was some much covered this semester. Overall it expanded my knowledge of Australian literature and all it can be. It gave me a greater appreciation for the Australian landscape and how it has changed over 200 years, yet still retained its unique beauty.