When it comes to gender and literary culture in Australia, it would seem that everything old is new again. Over the past decade feminists have identified gender bias in our prizes and reviews, made interventions, and seen changes. Now, it seems, it’s not such a bad time to be a woman writer in Australia. This is not the first time it has felt this way. The 1980s were seen, at the time, to be “the woman decade” in Australian literature: following the rise of women’s liberation, a wave of feminist literary scholarship, anthologies, magazines, journals and publishing houses augured a literary scene in which Gerard Windsor could complain that “the worst position for a writer to be in is that of being a middle-aged Anglo-Celtic male.” This paper uses these two periods - the 1980s and the past decade - to think about the ways in which feminism has shaped contemporary Australian literary culture, especially in the relationship between authorship, celebrity and self-disclosure. It uses as its case study a writer who, while a woman and a feminist, did not fit easily into the critical or popular expectations of “the woman writer” in the 1980s.
Amanda Lohrey’s first novel was published in 1984 and her most recent in 2015; her novels have examined the politics of the waterfront and the party room, the kitchen and the bedroom, the office and the tree change. Her career offers an opportunity to think about the relationship between gender, politics and literary culture in Australia: to what extent have feminisms shaped our expectations of contemporary authorship, and to what ends?
lectures in English at Australian National University. She has published essays on Australian writers (Rosa Praed, Barbara Baynton, Steele Rudd, Miles Franklin, Christos Tsiolkas), gender and Australian literary culture, digital approaches to studying the history of reading, mass market fiction at the turn of the twentieth century, and gender and book reviewing. She is currently working on a study of Australian book reviewing with Melinda Harvey, and a monograph on the work of Amanda Lohrey for Monash University Press. She is editor of the journal Australian Literary Studies.
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This lecture is brought to you by the Humanities Research Centre, ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences.