Anne Pender, Associate Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of New England, will be travelling to Spain later this week for an international conference at which her latest book will be launched.
The conference, at the University of Barcelona in the second week of December, is being held in honour of the book’s co-author, Emeritus Professor Bruce Bennett AO, who died in April this year.
The book – From a Distant Shore: Australian Writers in Britain 1820-2012 – analyses the impact of living in Britain on the work of 49 Australian authors. It starts with the work of William Charles Wentworth, who published his Description of the Colony of New South Wales (1819), the first book published by an Australian, and his epic poem Australasia (1823), during a 15-year residence in England.
“For some Australian authors, especially those who lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was a sense of wanting to be at the centre of literary life that took them to the United Kingdom,” Dr Pender said. “There was also a desire to explore, while in Britain, the European literary heritage of Australia. In detail, the motivation differed for each of the authors we investigated; there’s no common pattern – and it certainly wasn’t a feeling for ‘the Empire’. Many of them found that the British publishing climate was favourable for their work; some were better known in Britain than in Australia.”
“Not all of the successful authors came back to Australia,” she said, “but those who did include Patrick White, Christina Stead and Morris West. While Patrick White felt he needed to come back to connect with the essence of his Australian childhood, Germaine Greer declared in 2003 that ‘diaspora is the true human environment, and homeland a murderous delusion’.
“We’ve tried to unravel the myth that they all wanted to live and work in London. Some have chosen to live elsewhere: the novelist M. J. Hyland in Manchester, for example, and others as far from London as Scotland and Cornwall.”
From a Distant Shore, by Bruce Bennett and Anne Pender, is published by Monash University Publishing. Bruce Bennett was an internationally recognised authority on Australian literature, and the organisers of the conference in his honour – titled “Looking Back to Look Forwards” – have invited eminent academics from around the world to participate. A special issue of Coolabah, the journal of the Australian Studies Centre at the University of Barcelona, produced in conjunction with the Journal of the European Association for Studies on Australia, was published this week in memory of Professor Bennett.
Dr Pender’s contribution to the conference will be a paper on Australian actors in the “Asia Pacific Century”, including a discussion of international ventures such as the films Mao’s Last Dancer and The Home Song Stories. The holder of a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council to investigate the careers of Australian actors who have opted to stay and work in Australia, Dr Pender is the author of Christina Stead: Satirist (2002), Nick Enright: An Actor’s Playwright (2008), and One Man Show: The Stages of Barry Humphries (2010).