Seminars

Jerome Rothenberg spoke as part of the 2017 seminar program on Writing Through: Translation and Othering as Forms of Composition.

Our Next Seminar - Room to Listen online seminar series 2020

Friday 5 June 2020
11:00am  – 12:00pm

PRESENTERS: Dr Sarah Gilbert & Jane Scerri (WSRC HDRs)

Victoria Ocampo and the National Identity Essay: Reading Argentine Womanhood, Nationhood and Country in D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo - Dr Sarah Gilbert

In 1934, an Argentine intellectual, writer and feminist gave a speech in fascist Italy about masculinity, Argentine national identity and the novel Kangaroo.

A curious occurrence, certainly, but one that is entirely of a piece with her style. Victoria Ocampo – translator, publisher, memoirist, essayist and enormously rich heiress – was born in Buenos Aires in 1890. Her literary and cultural magazine, Sur, placed her at the centre of a web of trans-continental literary connections stretching from London, Paris and Madrid to New York and south to Buenos Aires, via Mexico. Her magazine and its publishing house were responsible for translating key modernist writers like Woolf, Camus, Joyce, Lawrence and Huxley into Spanish, and for introducing Jorge Luís Borges and other Argentine writers to a European readership.

Ocampo’s critique of D.H. Lawrence’s Australian novel offers us a hitherto undiscovered South-South connection. Her essay, a creative, feminist reading of Kangaroo, explores ideas and tensions around colonial masculinities, the colonial subject and the European gaze, national identities and their literary representations, and literary representations of landscape.

In this paper, I introduce Ocampo – a key figure in Latin American letters and in trans-national modernism, but little known among Australian readers and writers. I examine her particular approach to the essay, one that mixes performance, writing, literary criticism and creative memoir. I offer my own creative reading of her essay on Kangaroo, placing Ocampo’s response to Lawrence’s novel alongside some Australian responses, thereby elaborating a connection between Argentina and Australia, a country Ocampo never visited.

Dr Sarah Gilbert is a writer, researcher, journalist, teacher and television producer. She has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York, and recently completed a Doctorate in Creative Arts at Western Sydney University. She lives in Sydney, and currently works as a casual teacher in media studies at UTS, and as a freelance writer/producer for factual television, with a focus on history documentary.

***

The Power and the Passion: Representation of single motherhood in contemporary Australian literature - Jane Scerri

This research discusses, reflects upon and analyses the much vilified, yet increasingly prevalent existence of single-mother-headed households. Historically single motherhood has signalled disadvantage and adversity for both mothers and their children. However, as identity and gender politics have, since the 1990s, become so hotly contested and since notions of what ‘a family’ means are slowly changing – especially since the legalisation of gay marriage in many states and countries, single motherhood per se, therefore, provides a fertile arena for feminist exploitation. As a socially constructed site it represents fluidity; one in which women can reclaim power, creativity and sexuality outside of normative-nuclear-family dominance. And, by not being tied to or dependent upon the father of her children or a male breadwinner, women are able to separate the breeding aspect of their life from the sexual, meaning that once a woman has given birth, she is then free, within the practical constraints of running a home, to re-imagine and reconstruct her own life.

The Verge, a novel set in Sydney, Australia, discusses single motherhood in the 1990s. It tells the story of a relationship begun spontaneously and ended acrimoniously, six years later, when the protagonist, Joan, with two young daughters in tow, joins the ranks of Sydney’s single mothers. It, like the accompanying research seeks to explore female subjectivity, agency and desire, as specifically manifested in the period since the institution of the Australian Single Mother’s pension in 1973. Positive aspects of single motherhood, as viewed through a feminist lens, will show how a single mother, while required to attend to the practical aspects of running a home, is afforded agency, control and choice to shape her world, including her creative life, her career and her ongoing sex/love life. This doctoral thesis is considered an important contribution to Australian literature given that in 2019 there are more single mother households than ever before, and yet there is little in the way of literature that reflects this.

Jane Scerri is in her third year of a DCA at Western Sydney university. The paper being discussed was to be presented at the ICGR 2020 3rd International Conference on Gender Research at Reading University in April this year. It was instead published in a book comprising the conference proceedings. Jane has published several short stories and has recently had a piece called ‘Nuts’ included in TEXT’s special Covid 19 edition, titled, The In/completeness of Human Experience.

**All welcome. RSVP to Suzanne Gapps (S.Gapps@westernsydney.edu.au ) for the Zoom link**

Our seminars are free and open to visitors from outside the university. If you want to come along to one of our seminars simply RSVP by sending an email to writing@westernsydney.edu.au indicating which seminar you wish to attend.

The Parramatta South campus is accessible by public transport including University shuttle bus. See the Getting to uni page for more details.

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