IAC Culture Talks Series 2 Lecture One: In Search of Australian Literature by Prof Nicholas Jose (Catch up Online)

To download the Speech transcript, please click: In Search of Australian Literature Culture Talk by Professor Jose

This event was held on Wednesday 21 February 2024


People sometimes ask me which Australian books they should read. The question is part of a more general curiosity about Australian literature. What is it? Where can it be found? Australian literature exists as a category in libraries, bookshops, school and university courses and research projects. Living Australian authors win prizes and appear in the media. Federal and state governments like to support literary writing and publishing, though never with enough funding. Literature is part of our life as Australians, in book clubs and at writers’ festivals and for all those who are readers.

As an Australian writer, I have been reading, studying and writing about Australian books since my schooldays. I published my eighth novel last year, The Idealist, and have published three collections of short stories and much nonfiction. I consider myself a lover of Australian literature. But what is it today? The books that Australians read, or the books we don’t read and have never heard of? Between those two answers there is room for contention and debate.

New writers are emerging all the time: Alexis Wright, for example, Jessica Au, Shannon Burns. Australian books sit on the shelf alongside international favourites such as Jane Austen and James Joyce, Agatha Christie and Harry Potter, Haruki Murakami and Isabel Allende. New histories of Australian literature seek to expand and redefine the field. I recently reviewed The Cambridge History of the Australian Novel. Fifteen years ago I was general editor of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. Where to start? How to read the past? How to write the future? How can different voices and new stories change the way we imagine ourselves?

This ‘culture talk’ attempts some answers by way of a practitioner’s guide.

This lecture is held in partnership with The Chinese Association of Australian Studies, the Australian Studies Center of Beijing Foreign Studies University, and Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University.

About the SpeakerNick bio

Professor Nicholas Jose is currently Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide and Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University. Over the last three decades he has made tremendous contributions to cultural interactions between Australia and China, particularly in contemporary art and literature.

From 1987-1990 he was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Beijing. As co-editor his recent publications include Everything Changes: Australian Writers and China - A transcultural anthology (2020) and Antipodean China: Reflections on Literary Exchange (2021).  He was pivotal in establishing the influential China Australia Literary Forum (CALF) in 2011, a biannual ongoing program between the China Writers Association and Western Sydney University, where he was Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre. He was Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University in 2009-10 and has taught at universities around the world, including Beijing Foreign Studies University, East China Normal University and Oxford University.

Professor Jose is also a highly esteemed writer. He has published eight novels, three short story collections and a range of essays and nonfiction including Chinese Whispers: Cultural Essays and the acclaimed memoir Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola. Avenue of Eternal Peace was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Prize in 1990 and adapted for television. The Custodians was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, South-East Asia, in 1997. A collection of his short fiction, Bapo, was published in 2014. He was general editor of The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature /The Literature of Australia (Allen & Unwin/Norton 2009). His research interests include Australian literature, literary translation, cross-cultural writing and contemporary Chinese art. Professor Jose’s most recent novel, The Idealist, was published by Giramondo in 2023: https://giramondopublishing.com/books/nicholas-jose-the-idealist/

Book review of The Idealist by Professor Jocelyn Chey AM, originally published on Pearls and Irritations.



2021 IAC Annual Address - Culture Fever: The Importance of the Arts by Professor Nicholas Jose