Cultural Cringe in Academe : Studying Literature in the 1940s

I was a World War One baby boomer. We, the children of returned men, those recently de-regimented and de-uniformed stiff-upperlippers, never came to hear of permissiveness, flower power, basic encounter groups, sensitivity training or being laid back. Student counsellors, departmental 'deaning' and tertiary support groups did not exist. On 27 April 1941 Greece had fallen to the Axis powers. Towards the end ofNovember the British advanced in Libya in the African campaign (the battles of Tobruk, and El Alamein); on 7 December Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and the United States entered the war. Three days later, Australian warships HMS Prince o f Wales and HMS Replf.lse were lost at Singapore, and on 15 February 1942 Singapore fell. Australia's Prime Minister John Curtin defied British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and recalled Australian troops from the Middle East to defend the country. Australia was to become 'Americanised' almost overnight, but the influence of this on the Sydney University English Department in regard to their views on American literature was unknown to me.

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Published 1 May 2005 in Volume 22 No. 1. Subjects: Australian literature - Study & teaching - Universities, Cultural cringe, Memories.

Cite as: Moore, Deirdre. ‘Cultural Cringe in Academe : Studying Literature in the 1940s.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, 2005.