Special issue: Australian Literature in a Global World - Introduction
This Special Issue of JASAL is based on the 2008 ASAL conference ‘Australian Literature in a Global World’ at the University of Wollongong, the conference theme in turn inspired by an ARC Discovery project, ‘Globalising Australian Literature’, currently conducted by a team of researchers at the same institution. The overall (and hugely ambitious) aim of both conference and research project was to explore the effects, on the national literature, of different aspects of globalisation: transnational flows of people, ideas and cultural forms; globalisation in the publishing and education industries; the global marketplace for cultural production. The papers tap into a vigorous and, by the time of the conference, already mature and nuanced debate about the future of Australian literature, a debate which had seen prophets of doom spelling the decline, or even impending demise, of the national literary paradigm pitted against voices of optimism hailing a new era of national/global interaction with unprecedented opportunities for readers and writers. These debates are not unique to Australia. British fiction has, according to James F. English, also had to reposition itself in a ‘world literary space’ which encompasses both the culturally diverse literature being produced within the UK, and increasingly transnational markets and circuits of critical and creative exchange.1 The debates have been both productive and problematic, problematic because of a tendency towards hyperbole, political grand-standing and historical amnesia – a tendency Graham Huggan refers to as ‘globaloney.’ Huggan is not the only contributor to remind us of the dangers of generalisation and the limitations of any critical or theoretical category invented to make sense of the complexities of exchange across nations, language groups or cultural traditions. While responding to the conference theme, these papers in fact offer an important and timely correction to the globaloney and attendant anxieties which have crept into literary debates in recent years. They also provide ample evidence (if such evidence was ever needed) that the critical and scholarly conversations surrounding Australian literature are not confined to narrow ranges of cultural nationalism but engage with critical categories (including the national) from perspectives which are methodologically flexible and at the same time alert to historical, geographical, cultural and generic specificities.
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