Australian literature: a rough guide

This course is a short introduction to the rich and distinctive world of Australian literature, a world of ancient and modern forms of writing about a vast and varied continent. Explore the work of writers who have responded imaginatively to the unique landscapes of Australia and to its remarkable human history.

About The Course

The course is about the encounter between the literary imagination and a continent, a hugely diverse land that is home to some of the oldest surviving Indigenous cultures on the planet, and whose history includes defining and sometimes violent encounters between the old world and the new. In Aboriginal culture, in early European encounters, and in later white settlement, we see how the haunting and awe-inspiring landscapes of Australia have shaped and influenced a fascinating world of literature.

This course introduces you to a varied range of Australian literary works, beginning with Indigenous traditions and including colonial, early twentieth-century and contemporary writing. The texts for study include works of local and regional focus and others that engage with the wider world; some are classic works, some are popular.

The course offers a rough guide to some of the traditions and themes of Australian writing. Our starting point is the country, and each of the four main weeks focuses on different literary versions of a place, a landscape, or locale. Perspectives on the literary works is from both inside and outside, from within the traditions of writing in Australia and from a global view.

There are tales of the deep time of Aboriginal creation in central Australia, of first contact between Europeans and the fabled southern continent, of crime and punishment, of gold-seeking and spiritual quest, of tragedies in the desert, of families divided between the southern and northern hemispheres, of expatriate lives. All across a range of songs, fiction, poetry, popular legend and non-fiction. Throughout the journey of this course we follow the ways writers have adapted their language and narrative to the Australian environment and its history.

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources will I need for this class?
All resources are provided within the course.

What will be the most rewarding thing about taking this class?
Understanding of a unique encounter between landscape and literature.

What background is expected for learners in this class?
An interest in the literatures of the world.

Recommended Background

There are no formal prerequisites for the course.