Reading Australian Literature 2014

Presented with the School of Letters, Arts and Media at the University of Sydney

Writers’ festivals and other popular forums invite writers to talk about their own work and creative practices. But what might they have to say about the books that excite their imaginations? There are few opportunities for writers to substantially engage with literature in the public sphere.

Reading Australian Literature is a series in which acclaimed Australian writers reflect on the Australian books they value. In a thoughtful and engaging public lecture, each writer will discuss a favourite Australian literary text. What has led them to these books? What do they find remarkable about them? Have these encounters with Australian books left an imprint on the speakers’ own writing?

Reading Australian Literature offers a unique insight into an ongoing writerly dialogue with our literary heritage. In the inaugural series, to be held in the second half of 2014, Drusilla Modjeska will speak on Visitants by Randolph Stow, Michelle de Kretser will speak on Tirra Lirra By The River by Jessica Anderson and Fiona McFarlane will speak on The Aunt’s Story by Patrick White.

Reading Australian Literature is co-presented by the School of Letters, Arts and Media at the University of Sydney. The Australian Literature Program in the University’s Department of English is home of the oldest chair in Australian Literature, an exciting undergraduate major, a specialised honours stream and a variety of postgraduate and research options.

Past Events

11 August - Michelle de Kretser on Tirra Lirra By The River by Jessica Anderson

Michelle De Kretser

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Sydney. Her most recent novel Questions of Travel was the winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the 2014 NSW Premiers’ Literary Awards.

"Tirra Lirra By The River is, among other things, one of the great novels of place. Jessica Anderson's marvellous evocation of Sydney has haunted me for years, and is the reason I keep returning to this novel."

1 September - Drusilla Modjeska on Visitants by Randolph Stow

Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy (1990), a ‘fictional biography’ of her mother, won the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction. The Orchard (1994) also won the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award for Non-Fiction and the Nita Kibble Literary Award, as did Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999), which explores the lives of artists Grace Cossington Smith and Stella Bowen. The Mountain (2012), a novel set in PNG, was short listed for the Miles Franklin Award.

"Randolph Stowe'sVisitants is often described as 'underrated', an understatement if ever there was one. Set in the Trobriand Islands off the east coast of PNG, it was published in 1979 and, in my view, remains unsurpassed in outsider fiction of our complex near-neighbour. Each time I read it, I admire it more."

22 September - Fiona McFarlane on The Aunt’s Story by Patrick White

Fiona McFarlane

Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney. Her first novel, The Night Guest, was shortlisted for the 2014 Miles Franklin award, and her short stories have been published in Southerly, Zoetrope and the New Yorker.

"Patrick White’s The Aunt’s Story is the book that, more than any other, produces a bodily reaction in me: I react to it with a kind of horrified, delighted rapture. I hope to explore why this is, and to think more generally about the many metaphysical spinsters and acts of escape in White’s fiction.