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Australian author Tim Winton has wide national and international readerships.
His novels, short stories, children’s and young adult texts, together with his environmental activism, have brought him much recognition.
However, while he is now a popular choice on secondary school curricula, and he has a broad popular readership, there is very little in the way of definitive critical scholarship on his work.
Literary critics are divided about the nature of his writing: is it “popular” (vernacular, calling on and even perpetuating national stereotypes) and therefore not of “literary worth” (aesthetically challenging, subversive of mere stereotypes)?
Is it too concerned with white Australia, and therefore not sufficiently alive to issues of race and ongoing imperialism in a putatively postcolonial nation?
Are his gender politics masculinist, and in need of being questioned?
Is he dealing with Australian identity in an historical time warp, favouring early 20th Century versions and settings, as in his most popular work, Cloudstreet?
And what do his conceptions of land/place and sacredness have to do with a nation which, at least in some of its myths about itself, is deeply secular?
An ARC project involving researchers from Deakin's Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention, will examine Winton’s identity politics, in terms of gender, race, religion and nationality.
It will be the first fully scholarly and theorised reading of his works and his readership, conducting its examination through theoretical and disciplinary fields including:
The project seeks to estimate Winton’s legacy, both nationally and internationally.
In 2013-4, Chief Investigator Professor Lyn McCredden will be editing a collected volume of essays by invited scholars from Australia, the United States, France, Spain and Germany, with her co-editor Dr Nathanael O’Reilly from Southern Texas University.
Across the three years of the project Professor McCredden will also be writing a critical monograph on Winton and the sacred, and in 2015 she will conduct a National Symposium on Winton’s work.
The project has not been undertaken simply as a tribute to the author, but as a critical enterprise which seeks to debate the contribution of Winton’s writing to the national cultures of Australia, and to ask what role literature plays in our understandings of place and identity formation.