Life Writing Symposium, 13-15 June 2006

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This symposium revolved around research in biography, autobiography, memoir, biographically-driven fiction or poetry, travel writing, and biographical writing forms in new or alternative media.

Sidonie Smith (Professor of English and Women's Studies, University of Michigan) and Kay Schaffer (Professor of Gender Studies, University of Adelaide) were the symposium's two special guests.

This event was planned as a working symposium, in which everyone took an active part in discussions.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 12
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    "You are writing a gospel...":"Life Writing" and the Lives of Jim Page and Rebecca Forbes in the Adnyamathanha Community. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Spencer, Tracy
    This paper seeks to explore the construction of an hybrid life-writing text similar to the genre of ‘gospel’ and incorporating ‘parable’. The text produced for the project ‘White Lives in a Black Community: the lives of Jim Page and Rebecca Forbes in the Adnyamathanha community’ seeks to narrate historic lives, through a postmodern and postcolonial hybrid text, in order to engage the contemporary reader in a critical response to Indigenous – non-Indigenous relationships in Australia.
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    Lost Generation: Women Writers in Postwar Australia. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Sheridan, Susan Margaret
    Australia, 1959: In Tasmania, poet Gwen Harwood starts sending out her poems under male pseudonyms, after several encounters with misogynist literary editors; Dorothy Hewett, silent for the previous decade, publishes "Bobbin Up", a successful novel in the social realist mode approved by the Communist Party (of which she was a member) but one that allowed little scope to her poetic gifts or her theatrical ambitions; Elizabeth Jolley arrives in Perth from England and begins to send out stories, but must wait until 1976 to publish a book. They are but three of the generation of women writers who were largely lost from view in the 1950s and 60s, and who are now in danger of being eclipsed in subsequent histories. In looking for answers to the question of why their early careers were so beset with difficulties, Professor Sheridan hopes at the same time to create a picture of the literary culture of the period that will be different because of the presence of women in it – and to offer accounts of these women’s writing lives that will expand our understanding of their art and its continuing significance.
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    "Written extempore" William Anderson Cawthorne's "Literarium Diarium", A Colonial Diary. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Hosking, Rick
    The Adelaide schoolteacher William Anderson Cawthorne began writing his "Literarium Diarium" 22 October 1842, keeping the diary going until the 1860s. It survives in a number of battered volumes in the Mitchell Library of the State Library of New South Wales; one of Cawthorne’s daughters left her father’s papers to the library in the 1920s. The "Literarium Diarium" is a remarkable — if sometimes self indulgent — informal record of life in and around colonial Adelaide in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, in both word and image, in that Cawthorne was not only a writer but also a watercolourist, and many of the pages are illustrated. Its perspective is that of the 'littérateur', of the weekend amateur ethnographer; the diary has been recognised as one of the best records of everyday contact between the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and the colonists that we have. While the diary is of considerable importance for its representation of the day-to-day minutiae of Adelaide life in the 1840s and 1850s, it is also remarkably revealing of the private thoughts and feelings of a young man on the fringes of lower middle class society in Adelaide.
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    The Life of a Long-Distance Satirist: How to Write a Book about Bruce Petty. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Phiddian, Robert Andrew
    In this paper, Robert Phiddian explores four pragmatic issues involved in writing a biography of Australian cartoonist and illustrator, Bruce Petty. When your subject has published at least weekly and often daily since 1963 (apart from annual leave and a brief hiatus of 2 months in 1976), your problem is one of profusion. When your subject has also made a dozen animated features, hundreds of prints, several sculptures, and half a dozen books, your problem with profusion is not exactly dissipating. When your subject has led a personal life that in many ways exemplifies the social changes in Australia in a period spanning the Depression to the present, and is happy enough to talk about them, sanity demands that you view profusion is a realm of happy opportunity.
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    Constructing the Life of the Medieval Virgin Martyr as Death. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Cadwallader, Robyn
    'Passio' of the virgin martyr were extremely popular in the medieval world, providing a model and inspiration for women. Such Lives are distinguished from the biographies of female saints, which gave detailed accounts of women known to the writer, while virgin martyr Lives were legendary, formed from stories several centuries old, that were often adapted and supplemented according to the circumstances. Some, for example, were written for anchoresses, those committed to a perpetually enclosed life; others were used on saints’ days in church. The result is stories that are highly conventionalised in both structure and imagery, forming a body of literature that reflects attitudes to women and virginity, as well as raising some intriguing and complex questions about the nature of female agency and spirituality. In this paper, Dr Cadwallader firstly explores the highly conventional nature of the stories through a range of medieval passio to establish the qualities of the virgin martyr and the basic elements of her story. This study of the conventions of the virgin martyr Life establishes the base for the discussion which forms the second part of the paper, in which several major issues emerge.
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    Mapping the Body Electric: Digital Authors in the Blogosphere. [abstract].
    ( 2006) Cavanagh, Katie Eve
    Since blogs are very different in many respects than the established literary forms, there is plenty of room for new exploration. Academic discussion is currently limited by the lack of shared terminology and critical ideas that can assist discussion of the structure and purpose of blogs. When print models are pulled directly into new media, confusion is caused by attempts to match the existing vocabulary to the new techniques and styles of writing. This paper proposes that blogs can usefully be separated into several categories; blogs used as diaries, blogs used as networking/community building tools, blogs used professionally for self-promotion or public journalism. This paper proposes to further refine this model by suggesting theoretical frameworks and utilising examples to assist with carrying the discussion of blogs into the academic and life narrative realms. There is a tremendous upsurge in the number of voices available through the new digital publishing models; it is time to try to make some sense of the digital chatter.