Walter Murdoch : ‘A Humble Protest’?
WALTER Murdoch, Professor of English at the University of Western Australia for thirty years and once Australia's best known essayist, has been typecast as a conservative and an imperialist. Nevertheless, his essay 'A Humble Protest' takes up and disputes the representation of Australians in contemporary English literature as 'rich, loudly dressed, generally blatant and hairy. His manners are crude, and he wants a knighthood' (154). In much the same vein, this essay is both a recuperation and an analysis of Murdoch and his reputation, particularly as debates about his intellectual stature and political views relate to efforts to gain credibility for the criticism and teaching of Australian literature. Murdoch, in his career and criticism, exemplifies the difficulties faced by academic commentators on Australian literature in the early years of this century, and the stifling effect of academic culture upon the development of social and literary critique.