Doctor Ben Etherington

Doctor Ben Etherington

Senior Research Lectureship-Literature,
Arts (SoHCA)


Ben Etherington is Senior Lecturer in postcolonial and world literary studies in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. He holds honours degrees in Musicology and English from the University of Western Australia and an MPhil and PhD in English from the University of Cambridge. Recent publications include Literary Primitivism (Stanford, 2018, winnner of the Australian Heads of University English prize for literary scholarship), The Cambridge Companion to World Literature (2018, co-edited with Jarad Zimbler), and Historical Poetics and the Problem of Exemplarity (2019, special issue of Critical Quarterly, co-edited with Sean Pryor). His current project is on the poetics of Anglophone Caribbean creole verse in the period between the abolition of slavery and decolonisation. He is the president of the Australian Association for Carribean Studies and the elected academic representative on the University's Board of Trustees (2016-19).

This information has been contributed by Doctor Etherington.


  • PhD University of Cambridge (UK)
  • MPh Eng University of Cambridge (UK)

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Arts (SoHCA)


Phone: (02) 9685 9373
Location: EQ.1.39

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  • Etherington, B. (2018), 'Literary Primitivism', : Stanford University Press 9781503602366.
  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2018), 'The Cambridge Companion to World Literature', : Cambridge University Press 9781108471374.

Chapters in Books

  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2018), 'Introduction', The Cambridge Companion to World Literature, Cambridge University Press 9781108471374.
  • Etherington, B. (2018), 'Scales, systems, and meridians', The Cambridge Companion to World Literature, U.K. 9781108457842.
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'How to read a big book : the critical reception of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites in the context of contemporary trade book marketing', The Return of Print?: Contemporary Australian Publishing, Monash University Publishing 9781925495294.
  • Etherington, B. (2007), 'Said, Grainger and the Ethics of Polyphony', Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, Melbourne University Press 9780522853568.

Journal Articles

  • Etherington, B. and Pryor, S. (2019), 'Historical poetics and the problem of exemplarity', Critical Quarterly, vol 61, no 1 , pp 3 - 17.
  • Etherington, B. (2018), 'The new primitives', Los Angeles Review of Books, vol May 24, 2018 .
  • Etherington, B. (2017), 'Deconstructing decolonisation : Victor Questel's Collected Poems', Cordite Poetry Review, vol 81 .
  • Etherington, B. (2017), 'Ben Etherington reviews Borrowed Light', Critical Inquiry, vol 43, no 4 , pp 897 - 899.
  • Etherington, B. (2017), 'Crave?ho's universe', Sydney Review of Books, vol 27/10/2017 .
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'An answer to the question : what is decolonization? : Frantz Fanon's The wretched of the earth and Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of dialectical reason', Modern Intellectual History, .
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'An interview with Ali Cobby Eckermann', Wasafiri, vol 31, no 2 , pp 13 - 17.
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'This little university went to market', Sydney Review of Books, vol 21/06/2016 .
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'Unsettled poetics : contemporary Australian and South African poetry', Wasafiri, vol 31, no 2 , pp 1 - 4.
  • Etherington, B. (2015), 'The poet tasters', Sydney Review of Books, vol 30/01/2015 .
  • Etherington, B. (2015), 'On scanning Louise Bennett seriously', Journal of West Indian Literature, vol 23, no 1-2 , pp 19 - 34.
  • Etherington, B. (2014), 'Universities and the block', Sydney Review of Books, .
  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2014), 'Field, material, technique : on renewing postcolonial literary criticism', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol 49, no 3 , pp 279 - 297.
  • Zimbler, J., Etherington, B. and Bower, R. (2014), 'Crafts of world literature : field, material and translation', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol 49, no 3 , pp 273 - 278.
  • Etherington, B. (2013), 'Cellular scansion : creolization as poetic practice in Brathwaite's Rights of passage', Thinking Verse, vol 3 , pp 188 - 210.
  • Etherington, B. (2013), 'The real deal', Sydney Review of Books, .
  • Etherington, B. (2013), 'Road to omission', Sydney Review of Books, .
  • Etherington, B. (2013), 'The brain feign', Sydney Review of Books, .
  • Etherington, B. (2012), 'What is materialism's material? : thoughts toward (actually against) a materialism for "world literature"', Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol 48, no 5 , pp 539 - 551.
  • Etherington, B. and Zhou, M. (2011), 'Introduction: Pure Language, Pure Medium?', Comparative Critical Studies, vol 8 , pp 35 - 38.
  • Etherington, B. (2010), 'Sound Gazes? (Response to William Fitzgerald)', Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol 135, no sp1 , pp 39 - 43.
  • Etherington, B. (2010), 'Deafness and insight : on the seductions of the music/language analogy', Paragraph, vol 33, no 1 , pp 20 - 36.
  • Etherington, B. (2007), 'Instrumentalising Musical Ethics: Edward Said and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra', Australian Music Research, vol 9 , pp 121 - 129.

Other Publications

  • 2019, 'Nothing but the Truth', Recorded Work
  • 2019, 'Nothing but the Truth', Recorded Work
  • 2016, 'Roast or Fry: Dancehall in the Yards of Kingston', Recorded Work

The central concern of Ben’s research is with literature and decolonization. His current project traces the emergence of a creole poetics in the Anglophone Caribbean in the period between the abolition of slavery and political independence. His monograph Literary Primitivism (Stanford, winner of the 2018 AHUE prize), argues that primitivism arose in reaction to the apotheosis of European imperialism and that the most intensively primitivist literary works were produced by imperialism's colonized subjects. An online symposium on the book, convened by Emily Taylor, can be found here.

With Jarad Zimbler, Ben has conducted an ongoing research collaboration "Crafts of World Literature", which seeks to place questions of literary technique at the heart of postcolonial and world literary studies. This has included conferences at the University of Oxford, the Writing and Society Research Centre and the University Cape Town, issues with the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Wasafiri, and The Cambridge Companion to World Literature. In his contributions, Ben has developed a non-positivist idea of world literature as a "speculative literary totality" and proposed the notion of "literary meridians" as way of conceptualizing the affinities between unconnected and localized literary practices.

A related project is the ARC-funded Other Worlds in which he is working with J. M. Coetzee, Gail Jones, Nicholas Jose, Anthony Uhlmann, and Alexis Wright to explore world literature from the vantage of practicing writers. With Wright, Ben produced Nothing but the Truth (2019) for ABC Radio National on the life of the Gangalidda leader, Clarence Walden.

Ben's work on creole verse explores the paradigm of "historical poetics", which has led to collaborations with Sean Pryor including a conference on historical poetics and exemplarity and a special issue with Critical Quarterly.

Ben writes occasional essays on Australian literary criticism and higher education for the Sydney Review of Books.

Areas of expertise and interest: primitivism, Caribbean poetry and poetics, literature and decolonization, historical poetics, materialist aesthetics, intellectual history of decolonization, literature and music, Australian literary criticism.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Etherington.

Current Projects

Title: Other Worlds: Forms of World Literature
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
Western Researchers: Anthony Uhlmann, Alexis Wright, Ben Etherington and Gail Jones
Years: 2017-03-15 - 2020-08-31
ID: P00023265


Current Supervision

Thesis Title: Performance Writing: Reinventing Poetics before Text
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: Newos Kanmn: Towards a Poetics of Prehistoric Fiction
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: Nabokov's, Djebar's and Dessaix's Literary Arabesques: A Comparative Study
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: Genre Collisions, Culture Collisions: A Study of Fusions between Sub-Saharan African and Western Popular Music
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: 'No Island is a Man' and 'Exploring Post-Human Particularities in "World Literature" through an Australian Lens'
Field of Research:
Field of Research:

Previous Supervision

Thesis Title: The Content of the Avant-Garde: Subjectivity, Community, Revolution
Field of Research: Literature; Creative Arts Not Elsewhere Classified; Other Society And Culture
Thesis Title: Literary Recognition: Representation of Islam and Muslims in Post 9/11 Novels
Field of Research: Other Society And Culture


Title: The New Primitives
Description: Feature essay on contemporary primitivism
Title: Nothing but the Truth
Description: Feature radio documentary on the life of Gangalidda elder, Clarence Walden
Title: Roast or Fry? Dancehall in the Yards of Kingston
Description: Feature radio documentary on the dancehall scene in Jamaica

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