Australia is a vast and diverse country, with a culture to match, but its literature has traditionally been underrepresented in academic institutions and it remains marginal to the literary canon. When Australian literature is studied, it typically tends to date from the mid-20th century onwards, not from before the country’s federation in 1901. However, in order to get a fuller sense of the modern Australian condition, it may be valuable – or indeed necessary – to turn to the culture of the pre-federation era, such as early Australian poetry. In the writings of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Henry Kendall and their contemporaries, we can trace themes which continue to preoccupy Australian writers and artists today, such as the tension between civilisation and wilderness, the horrors of colonialism and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and the search for a uniquely Australian mode of cultural expression.
This week, The Provocateur is joined by Jason Rudy, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, to discuss the history of Australian poetry in the 19th century. We pick up some of the themes of his book Imagined Homelands, discuss a selection of the major writers of the pre-federation period and uncover what 19th-century Australian literature can offer to readers of contemporary writing.
You can listen to the podcast here:
Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, “The Aboriginal Woman”
Adam Lindsay Gordon, “From the Wreck”
Charles Harpur, various poems
Henry Kendall, “The Wail in the Native Oak”
Henry Lawson, various poems
Banjo Paterson, various poems
Ackland, M. (1994) That Shining Band: A Study of Australian Colonial Verse Tradition. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.
Belich, J. (2009) Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Huggan, G. (2007) Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McQueen, H. (1976) A New Britannia: An argument concerning the social origins of Australian radicalism and nationalism, rev. ed. Sydney and Melbourne: Penguin.
Rudy, J. R. (2017) Imagined Homelands: British Poetry in the Colonies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wright, J. (1965) Preoccupations in Australian Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.