Back in August I wrote two posts (here and here) about the National Library of Australia’s conference, Writing the Australian landscape. At the time I said that I would provide a link when the talks became available on-line.
Well, they apparently went on-line a month or so ago and the NLA very kindly tweeted the fact to me. However, I was overseas at the time and having a semi-break from constant on-line connection – and have consequently only caught up with the tweet now. Better late than never eh?
So, if you are still interested in checking out any of the wonderful talks I discussed in my posts, here is the link.
As you may remember from my posts, I found it all excellent, but if I had to recommend some to you, these would be the ones:
- Murray Bail‘s keynote address on day 1, which was provocative about what he sees as our (Australian) need to define ourselves by our landscape. He concluded by asking readers to be “explorers” and open to new ways of writing, to not expect “landscape” to be the way into Australianness.
- Bill Gammage‘s keynote address on day 2, which was provocative in a different way, arguing that there is a progression from notions of “landscape” and “place” to “country” which, in indigenous terms, is synonymous with “culture”. He argued that we still “view” the land as outsiders, rather than seeking to relate to it in a more spiritual, organic way, and challenged us to be willing to learn from indigenous Australians.
- Jeanine Leane’s paper which, among other things, confronted us with our (that is, white/non-indigenous) preconceived notions about what we define as Australian classics. Now I have the paper I can quote directly. It was powerful. She said:
Through Xavier Herbert, Patrick White, David Malouf & more recently Kate Grenville who among others have been hailed as nation writers & what I saw and still see to some extent in Australian literature to date is a continuous over-writing of settler foundation stories which overwrite Aboriginal experience and knowledge. Settlers are always re-settling and Australian literature really reflects this and the critics and scholars write of such works as if everyone reading it is also a settler reader.
It is very hard, Leane showed us, to step outside our own world-view … but that’s why we read, talk about reading, and listen to readers and writers isn’t it? I certainly found my world-view shifting as we went through the weekend. How do I, as a non-indigenous Australian, need and want to relate to this land I also call home. It would be presumptuous to try to relate to it as an indigenous person does. But we are lucky here to have people with such a deep knowledge of and relationship with the land. We can learn a lot from them: practical things about how to care for the land, and, perhaps more importantly, what a true relationship with the land really means and the responsibility accompanying that.
Anyhow, I’m very glad to be able to share the link to the papers, and would love to hear from you if you do read any of them.