Blaiklock Lecture: Nicolas Rothwell
“The Call of the Chowchilla: Australian Letters in the Age of Globalised Culture”
This talk is about the place of Australian literature in the new world order: but it takes a personal approach. I mean to tell the tale of Australian writing and the search for a character, an authenticity, an identity: for writers, for readers, for those who turn their eyes on us from overseas. I will be suggesting (gently) that the current of nationalism which underlies today’s world of Australian letters has led us away from the original, international and multiplicit Australia – the wondrously mixed and mingled country that took form in the first decades of settlement. Multiplicity and hybridity: we are condemned to them: we are blessed by them. I hope to illustrate these points by telling you in brief the story of my path to writing about the inland in the way I have, and how rich I found its seeming austerity. These are dark, forbidding times for literature as much as for literary studies – and yet we stand at the beginning of a tradition: with undreamt wonders ahead. And I hope by the end of this talk I will have been able to show how it is that bringing disparate elements together, binding them into pattern, is and should be our task as readers and writers, as creatures making up and burnishing and ornamenting our world. As for the Chowchilla of the title, it will be revealed at the end of the talk as a noisily Shakespearian kind of bird.
Nicolas Rothwell is a graduate of the University of Oxford and a Walkley Award-winning journalist. He is also an award-winning writer of non-fiction, including Wings of the Kite Hawk (2003), Another Country (2007), The Red Highway (2009) and Journeys to the Interior (2010), and of works of fiction, including Belomor (2013) and Quicksilver (2016). In his non-fiction, in particular, Rothwell has established a highly innovative blend of memoir, travelogue and nature writing, developing both a narrative aesthetic and a mode of ethical comportment that are appropriate to a settler literature. In its journeys down the ‘Red Highway’ in these intense and often mysterious works, the European sensibility is at once challenged and potentially extended by its contact with the Indigenous sacred and with Country.
The annual Herbert Blaiklock Memorial Lecture began in 1971. It was established with a benefaction by Lady Persia Gallagher and named after her father.
Lecture Theatre N395
John Woolley Building (A20)
The University of Sydney