Michael Wilding’s Three Centres of Value


Wilding is much more than a creative writer. His contribution to Australian culture has been in a number of fields, three of which (creative writing, criticism and publishing) are most central. And this is in keeping with his world-view. According to Wilding ('After Libertarianism', see below 291), Australian literary culture used to have three vital centres of value: the academy; the literary writers, performers and reviewers; and the publishing industry. They formed a network of relations and tensions that benefited Australian writing. Today we have but one centre: publishing. All values are determined by and emanate from it. Criticism and writing are now in the service of multinational capitalist publishers. 'The only values in the publishing industry are accountants' values. The decisions are not made by the editors but by the sales people. Everything has been compressed into this single value of profitability' ('After Libertarianism' 292). The accuracy of this argument is not the issue at this point; though it will bear some examination later. It is, however, a useful argument to fold back onto the life and work of Wilding, whose career can be read as a refusal to allow these three centres to collapse in his own practices. His career is, rather, a prolonged exercise in keeping the three arenas separate and alive. Whatever might be happening to Australian literary culture, Michael Wilding has his own three centres of personal value, none of which dominates, all of which are in permanent states of tension, creative or not.

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Published 1 May 1998 in Volume 18 No. 3. Subjects: Australian literary criticism, Australian literature and writers, Australian publishers, Defining an Australian literature, Marxism, Politics, Postmodern criticism, Poststructuralism, Structuralism, Writer's craft, Michael Wilding.

Cite as: Syson, Ian. ‘Michael Wilding’s Three Centres of Value.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 18, no. 3, 1998, doi: 10.20314/als.116e332712.