Review of Twentieth Century Australian Literary Criticism, edited by Clement Semmler


If the publishers' lists are any guide, Australians are becoming more and more interested in taking stock of themselves and their past. The writing of Australian history flourishes, scarce books of the colonial period are being reprinted, neglected authors of more recent times arc being rediscovered and revalued, the first volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography have appeared; and although we have no equivalent to the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature or the Oxford Companion to English Literature, we have a comprehensive History of Australian Literature that looks like being the standard for a long time; and we have no end of anthologies. However, anthologies of criticism are still rare in Australia, so it is with great interest and curiosity that one turns to Clement Semmler's Twentieth Century Australian Literary Criticism, a handsome, well-designed volume, over which the publishers have obviously taken much care. 'This is a collection of the most important writing about Australian literature by Australian critics during the last seventy years', begins the blurb on the attractive dustjacket, but the book hardly justifies this claim. It is disappointing to have to report that the first attempt to produce an anthology of this kind is a failure. Far from documenting the critical achievement of the last seventy years, the editor shows little understanding of the nature of that achievement, and has made a selection of material which is in some ways so unrepresentative that it is quite misleading.

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Published 1 May 1968 in Volume 3 No. 3. Subjects: Australian literary history.

Cite as: Barnes, John. ‘Review of Twentieth Century Australian Literary Criticism, edited by Clement Semmler.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 3, no. 3, 1968, doi: 10.20314/als.8036ae7ce7.