Review of The Literature of Australia, edited by Geoffrey Dutton
A number of histories of Australian literature have already appeared. The products of single or joint authorship, they have had the advantage of unity of tone and consistency of opinion. In theory, as Mr Dutton observes, there is much to be said for a history of literature or a critical guide written by a panel of experts, since such a panel can offer a 'multiplicity of insights.' For its success, however, two things are necessary: the contributors need to be experts and the editor must not only possess an imaginative grasp of the whole field, but must also exercise a firm control over the relative proportions and general plan of the book. Although in this volume most of the contributors are recognized experts in their specialized fields, they often write as amateurs of criticism, lacking any fully developed scale of values, literary sophistication, method, or discipline, all too frequently falling back on such tired, largely meaningless terms as 'charm' and 'fascination'. More over, if the editor has a comprehensive vision and is capable of firm planning and control, this is not evident.
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