What Students Would Learn from Australian LiteratureAugust 09, 2018

Australian literature wouldn't be different from English literature, which doesn't mean that gray weather greets (Australian) university students all year long. Australian literature is a kaleidoscope of nature and culture. It seems hard to figure out, as the Outback stretches to the horizon. The same thing could be said of the deep, blue sea. If these elements would talk.

The study of Australian literature consists of three phases, namely the fascinating tales of the Aboriginal people and their spiritual connection to the land. And then came the colonisers. Many historians would point out that this was the darkest chapter in Australian history, which should reflect in the arts. (Film enthusiasts would be reminded of the rabbit-proof fence.) It won't be surprising that racial politics was the undertone in many of the written works that were published during this era. There were other books, which were written during the period afterward. It could be classified under the works that analysed the impact on British colonisation. It would be a different point of view, probably more objective than the authors of the previous works. The third phase would be the outcome of the two, about the long struggle of the forefathers and the subsequent development of a multi-cultural Australian society.

The above description is a fascinating overview of a young nation, and how its artwork could be compared to the old kingdoms in Europe, even early civilisation (like Egypt). However, many titles in Australian literature are brimming with mystery and pathos. And any outside wouldn't have a clue about the bush.

Students have three options, namely taking Australian literature as a major, as a minor or as stand-alone units (electives). The decision must be based on the level of interest and what could the (aspiring) students hope to make out of it. The latter would mean that students must discuss it with their tutor including the possible career options. After all, this study must be linked to professional aspiration.

What Books Should Be Taught?

Earlier Australia. Michael Heyward once lamented the underappreciation of literary works of earlier Australia. The words of the news writer of The Age didn't go unnoticed, as many schools decided to introduce the works of notable Australian writers into the curriculum of school children. Notable indigenous writers like Ruth Hegarty, Herb Wharton, and Ray Mancini would be discussed in detail, which should be exciting for students who want to know more about this least-known part of Australian literature. It's not important to know the titles at this point, as students must try to put themselves in the shoes of their forefathers. It shouldn't be surprising that oral tradition would play a huge role in keeping the records (or literary works), and it might be better if students have prior visits to the Outback. (Any perspective would be better than rephrasing what others have previously taught.)

Defining English. The episode on the colonisation of Australia would lead to an intriguing subject, namely the English language. The dialect hardly differs from English-speaking nations, with a handful of idioms defining one from the other. It wouldn't be sufficient to describe Australian literature, and then differentiate it from English literature (or American literature for that matter). It leads to another subject, which can be worth a debate. How do you define a classic? Why are the works of writers (like Joseph Furphy) consider as classics? The answers to these questions would arrive after days, if not weeks. This could be a contentious issue, which must be read carefully. It doesn't mean that students must stick to generalisations, though.

Your favourite genre. The multi-cultural Australian society would be decades in the making, which showed in literature. From expatriate writers to authors of Children's books (e.g. "Seven Little Australians"), students wouldn't be pressed hard to find a topic that would interest them the most (and possibly finish their assignments ahead of the deadline). One particular sub-genre might pique their curiosity, about the disenchantment of young Aussies on the urban landscape. The so-called grunge literature might have resulted to audacious homegrown films like "Romper Stomper", but let's not stretch too far on that one. There may be a connection, but it would be more important to determine the origin. Could it be the inability to come to terms with the past? What would the future look like?

Please Be Reminded About the Following

The study of Australian literature, which depends on your choice (of major, minor or elective), would depend on paper writing. This won’t come as a shock, as the other studies in the English Department follow the same system. It could be challenging as the months go by, though. For one, your familiarity with Aussie writers would determine the extent of your enthusiasm on this subject. It could affect your focus on other courses, which shouldn’t give you trepidation. You let your mind wander anywhere, your imagination tells you how to approach this sub-genre. You may want to start with a friendly nod to your coursemates, which good mates would do.

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