Diversity Itself: Essays in Australian Arts and Culture

Diversity Itself: Essays in Australian Arts and Culture

Diversity Itself: Essays in Australian Arts and Culture

Diversity Itself: Essays in Australian Arts and Culture

Excerpt

Although their immediate focus is ‘Australian studies’, I hope these essays will provoke discussion of wider issues. With this in mind, contributors were left completely free to write on what they felt important within the overall concept of a non-specialist book on Australian arts and culture. As editor I have tampered very little with the papers, and then only with the writer’s agreement.

To write an introduction for essays on Australian arts and culture by colleagues from Glasgow to Perth can only be a pleasure. An editor’s role here is to enhance the complementary discussions of the various authors, for it is their book. My own principles are set out in my contribution to the volume, but the very appearance of this collection, drawn as it is from Australia, Denmark, England, Scotland and Switzerland, confirms the value of the twenty years I have spent teaching Australian arts at Exeter University. Like other interests, ‘Australian studies’ can have its narrow and self-regarding side, but for me it has meant introducing British students to authors and artists of whom usually they have not heard (and on whom, often, there has been little available in print). This has posed a healthy challenge to teacher and student alike.

Neither the Nobel Prize nor the America’s Cup has changed the fact that to teach Australian culture in Britain is to be an outsider. Australia is the place to which we sent our convicts, in which we tested our atomic bombs. It is a blank on the map, though many Britons still assume that Australia is very much ‘part’ of Britain in some curious way. (British business executives apparently sometimes arrive at Heathrow airport without visas for Australia, assuming that a British passport is quite sufficient for their return trip.) But Australia is only one blank among many on the world map, and can usefully be studied as representative rather than unique in the cultural questions that its history and culture pose. Exactly such questioning is stimulated by teaching and research in Commonwealth areas.

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