Chercher les Livres

I noted when I began this project that I wasn’t especially versed in writing by  Australian women whose works have made it into the public domain, which they must be for inclusion in this hybrid AWW2012-LibriVox challenge I’ve fashioned for myself.

Initially, I relied on an article in Meanjin about women’s writing and literary value as a resource to identify writers whom I might read.  My thinking here was that even if I didn’t know–beyond two or three–who Australia’s classic female writers were then I would rely on those who did know and trust their judgement about their merit when making my selection.  Now that I’m recording, however, I’ve noticed concerns, other than those of authorship, about which books I might choose to read, coming to the fore.

In the first instance, it seems I’m interested in recording books that portray a range of settings.  After I finished The Pioneers and began looking for the next book to read, I noticed a preponderance of stories with bush settings. Given the time period I’m restricted to–works published before 1923–from a relatively small pool of writers, in a country whose national literature has traditionally lionised the bush, this discovery was perhaps not unexpected, but I didn’t want to read another one straight away.

For my next recording, then, I deliberately sought a book with an urban setting and one that was set in somewhere other than Victoria, which is where The Pioneers was set, even though its author, Katharine Susannah Prichard, is generally considered to be a Western Australian. Thus, as I searched for a novel with an urban setting, I stumbled across another criterion for my selections: I also hope to read a range of works that represent as many of Australia’s states and territories as possible.

I’ve been able to discover details–like the novels’ settings–of works I’ve hitherto been unaware of by using the AustLit database, which I’m fortunate enough to have access to through the library of the university where I’m writing my PhD.  Through a combination of key terms entered into various fields in that database, I’ve  been able to get some sense of the focus of each of the novels that are returned in my searches. Of course, normally, I’d rely on blurbs or synopses, but I’ve discovered throughout this challenge that it’s nigh on impossible to find a synopsis of any but the most well-known works by Australian women writers (at least on the Internet).  That might also be the case for works by Australian male writers of yore, I don’t know, but the lack of detail has been decidedly frustrating.

And so, I encounter yet another compelling reason for the AWW 2012 challenge.

Anyway, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer; the next novel I’m reading–indeed, have already begun–is the rather cumbersomely titled Two Sides to Every Question’: From a South Australian Standpoint by Maud Jean Franc (aka Matilda Jane Evans nėe Congreve).

You can follow the progress of my recording via the ‘Books‘ tab and I’ll post further on Two Sides shortly.


About Kirsty Leishman

Currently enrolled in a Grad Dip of Teaching and Learning in anticipation of teaching English and Film, TV & New Media to high school students. Abandoned a PhD in television. Completed an MPhil on zines. Honours in Australian grunge literature. Long time university tutor of media, communications, cultural studies and academic writing. Opinionated. View all posts by Kirsty Leishman

4 responses to “Chercher les Livres

  • Wendy

    I’m much looking forward to following your progress. I have never heard of the book or the author…so much writing to discover!

    • Kirsty

      Discovering them’s quite the job, but Catriona’s now lent me a couple of Australian women writers reference books, which should help me out. *crosses fingers*

  • residentjudge

    No doubt “Maud Jean Franc” sounded much more exotic than Matilda Jane Evans! What a terrific idea- not only discovering forgotten Australian women writers, but making them available as audio as well. Thank you.

    • Kirsty

      Ha, yes, no doubt. And sometimes she seems to have spelled her name ‘Maude Jeanne’ for that extra bit of Frenchness! Glad you like the idea; that’s encouraging.

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