Writing Practice and Tradition

Henry Lawson PortraitThere is a tradition of writing in Australian literature that is characterised by its remarkable plasticity under the pressure of emotion, the way bodies, objects, settings, atmospheres expand and contract, take on strange shapes and colourings, or mutate in their identities. The exaggerated and often awkward expression of emotion suggests inhibition, but it is not the only cause.

Awkwardness also arises in social situations where the subject finds himself or herself responding to competing demands or uncertain as to how to respond at all. As an immigrant country Australia has been marked by awkwardness in its social relations from colonial times. The value placed on restraint, questions about guilt and responsibility, the shifting expectations around gender and sexuality, the relation to place – particularly to a landscape that is often felt to be overwhelming in scale - these and other complexities have made awkwardness something of a norm in our behaviour and our literature.
 
Ivor Indyk

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