Australian Criticism in ‘Transition’


About a decade ago, Howard Felperin and a few others were pointing out quite correctly that Australian literary scholars had generally ignored modern critical theory. Recently in the Weekend Australian (9-10 January 1993: Review 7) Imre Salusinszky announced, with breathtaking inaccuracy, that literary studies in this country are dominated by a coterie of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) which has 'struggled to keep Australian literary scholarship free and pure of the influence of "foreign" ideas'. In the eight books under discussion there are about 130 essays which were nurtured in the climate of controversy of the 1980s, and which reflect and document the disruptions and reorientations of a decade of critical transition. Already some, even among the best, have a slight smell of last week's bananas in the school cloakroom - rather familiar, a little old, but inescapably present. These essays rehearse and reflect, implicitly or explicitly, again and again, the Great Debate between traditional criticism and modern theory. Many were originally published, or presented as conference papers, between 1978 and 1990. The exceptions, in (Un)Common Ground, Aspects of Australian Fiction, Reconnoitres and a few in Security of Allusion, are original essays, but are conditioned by the critical climate of the 1980s, and reflect and illustrate the environment of particular literature departments.

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Published 1 May 1993 in Volume 16 No. 1. Subjects: Australian literary criticism, Australian literature - Study & teaching, Literary criticism, Postcolonial criticism.

Cite as: Stewart, Ken A.. ‘Australian Criticism in ‘Transition’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 1993, doi: 10.20314/als.132f147a76.