Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead

Sydney University Press
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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.

"In this remarkable, bold and fearless book, Nicholas Birns contests how literary cultures are read, how they are constituted and what they stand for … In examining the nature of the barriers between public and private utterance, and looking outside the absurdity of the rules of genre, Birns has produced a redemptive analysis that leaves hope for revivifying a world not yet dead."

- John Kinsella

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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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Sydney University Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2015
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9781743324363
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Australian & Oceanian
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Haina ia mai ana ka puana. This familiar refrain, sometimes translated Let the echo of our song be heard, appears among the closing lines in many nineteenth-century chants and poems. From earliest times, the chanting of poetry served the Hawaiians as a form of ritual celebration of the things they cherished--the beauty of their islands, the abundance of wild creatures that inhabited their sea and air, the majesty of their rulers, and the prowess of their gods. Commoners as well as highborn chiefs and poet-priests shared in the creation of the chants. These haku mele, or composers, the commoners especially, wove living threads from their own histoic circumstances and everyday experiences into the ongoing oral tradition, as handed down from expert to pupil, or from elder to descendant, generation after generation.

This anthology embraces a wide variety of compositions: it ranges from song-poems of the Pele and Hiiaka cycle and the pre-Christian Shark Hula for Ka-lani-opuu to postmissionary chants and gospel hymns. These later selections date from the reign of Ka-mehameha III (1825-1854) to that of Queen Liliu-o-ka-lani (1891-1893) and comprise the major portion of the book. They include, along with heroic chants celebrating nineteenth-century Hawaiian monarchs, a number of works composed by commoners for commoners, such as Bill the Ice Skater, Mr. Thurston's Water-Drinking Brigade, and The Song of the Chanter Kaehu. Kaehu was a distinguished leper-poet who ended his days at the settlement-hospital on Molokai.

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