Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead
Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead
Nicholas Birns
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781743324363

Australia has been seen as a land of both punishment and refuge. Australian literature has explored these controlling alternatives, and vividly rendered the landscape on which they transpire. Twentieth-century writers left Australia to see the world; now Australia’s distance no longer provides sanctuary. But today the global perspective has arrived with a vengeance.

In Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead, Nicholas Birns tells the story of how novelists, poets and critics, from Patrick White to Hannah Kent, from Alexis Wright to Christos Tsiolkas, responded to this condition. With rancour, concern and idealism, modern Australian literature conveys a tragic sense of the past yet an abiding vision of the way forward.

Birns paints a vivid picture of a rich Australian literary voice – one not lost to the churning of global markets, but in fact given new life by it. Contrary to the despairing of the critics, Australian literary identity continues to flourish. And as Birns finds, it is not one thing, but many.

Praise for Contemporary Australian Literature

“Birns presents a fascinating analysis: that contemporary Australian writers are challenging the neoliberal status quo … this is a hopeful book, and a valuable addition to the study of Australian literature.”
Marion Rankine, The Times Literary Supplement

“In this remarkable, bold and fearless book, Nicholas Birns contests how literary cultures are read, how they are constituted and what they stand for … Birns has produced a redemptive analysis that leaves hope for revivifying a world not yet dead.”
John Kinsella

Digital editions

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The preface to this work is available free for download from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository.

About the Author

Nicholas Birns is professor at the New School, New York. He is a leading scholar of Australian literature and editor of Antipodes, the publication of the American Association of Australasian Literary Studies.


I. Australian Literature: From Modern to Contemporary

  • Australian Literature in a Time of Winners and Losers
  • Christina Stead: Australian in Modernity
  • Medium-Sized Mortals: Elizabeth Harrower and the Crisis of Late Modernity
  • The Long and the Short of It: The Shape of Contemporary Australian Literature
II. The Affects of Contemporary Australian Literature
  • The Ludicrous Pageant: Challenging Consensus Through Rancour
  • Failing to Be Separate: Race, Land, Concern
  • Australia’s International Styles: The Idealisms of Architecture and Mobility
III. Australian Literature in the World Market
  • Australian Abroad: Peter Carey’s Inside Course
  • History Made Present: Hannah Kent and Eleanor Catton
IV. Afterword: Sly Change

Sydney Studies in Australian Literature

The Sydney Studies in Australian Literature series publishes original, peer-reviewed research in the field of Australian literature. The series comprises monographs devoted to the works of major authors and themed collections of essays about current issues in the field of Australian literary studies. The series offers well-researched and engagingly written re-evaluations of the nature and importance of Australian literature, and aims to reinvigorate its study both in Australia and internationally. The series will be of interest to those researching, studying and teaching in the diverse fields of Australian literary studies.

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