Australian literature alive at Sydney University
31 January 2007
In the wake of recent debate on the state of Australian literature, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) holds a Sydney University-based, two-day conference on Aussie lit this week in honour of the University's retiring Professor of Australian Literature, Elizabeth Webby.
"Elizabeth has done an incalculable amount to promote and encourage Australian literature, both its production and its study," said conference convenor, Brigid Rooney, lecturer in the University's Australian Studies Program. "She tirelessly nurtures writers and scholars, and her erudition, generosity and energy are extraordinary."
"Her retirement marks a moment when we can celebrate what has been achieved, take stock of challenges and changes underway and debate the directions that study of Australian literature might take."
'New reckonings: Australian literature - past, present and future' will be held at Women's College on the University's Camperdown campus on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 February.
Open to all those who are interested, it gathers together distinguished scholars in the field to converse on Australian literature in its various dimensions: readers, writers and texts; histories and futures; changing densities and patterns; and literature's place in the wider culture.
Professor Webby will chair an opening panel on new perspectives on Australian literature, featuring a paper on international contexts by Robert Dixon, Sydney University's incoming professor of Australian literature.
The wide-ranging nature of the conference, with papers from over 60 presenters, reflects the diversity of Professor Webby's own work, Dr Rooney said, with which many papers would be engaging.
Amongst these are panels and papers on nineteenth century Australian literature, Australian theatre history, women writers and women's writing, Patrick White, the history of literary journals, and the idea of Australian literature as a dynamic field of cultural endeavour.
There will be panels on postmodernism, the history-fiction debate, contemporary fiction and autobiography, Australian Gothic, poetry, writing and war, censorship, literature and travel.
"It's really quite a stunning program and should be a wonderful affirmation of the richness of literature and literary study in Australia and how that has developed over the last four decades," Dr Rooney said.
"We hope it will engender renewed focus for scholars and educators in the field, clearer recognition of Elizabeth's work and contribution, and impetus and courage to build on her legacy."
Meeting a request from postgraduate members of ASAL, Professor Webby will also present a day-long masterclass this Thursday prior to the conference, to enable postgraduates to discuss their own work with her, as well as the past trends and future possibilities in Australian literature and Australian literary studies - including issues raised recently in The Australian.
Elizabeth Webby is the third incumbent of the University's historic Chair of Australian Literature - the first such chair in Australia. Her predecessors were Professors Gerry Wilkes and Leonie Kramer. After 17 years in the position she retires on 9 February, her 65th birthday.
Despite retirement, Professor Webby continues her wide-ranging work in the area of Australian literature, including involvement in two ARC-funded projects - the Australian Poetry Resources Internet Library and critical editions of Henry Lawson's stories and Charles Harpur's poems - aswell as preparing chapters commissioned for several books, judging two large short story competitions, and, as a member of the Executive Committee of Sydney PEN, organising a discussion in March on the Future of Australian Literature as a follow up to The Australian's recent review.
The conference 'New Reckonings' takes place at Women's College, University of Sydney, this Friday and Saturday, 2 and 3 February 2007.
Enquiries and registration: Convenor, Brigid Rooney, University of Sydney, email@example.com.
Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, firstname.lastname@example.org, 9351 2261.