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Reading Across the Pacific

Reading Across the Pacific: Australia-United States Intellectual Histories - a new book from Sydney University Press explores the literary and cultural engagement between the United States and Australia. The book examines relations of the two countries, shifting the emphasis from the broad cultural patterns that are often compared, to the specific networks, interactions, and crossings that have characterised Australian literature in the United States and American literature in Australia.

Since the mid-1800s, American writers such as Herman Melville and Mark Twain have showed some interest in Australian writing and in Australia generally, even if Australian culture has rarely been for them a primary concern. Mark Twain, the first American literary celebrity to visit Australia, commented about the affinities between Australian and American character.

Today, when relations between the United States and Australia are considered, it is more usually in the context of international affairs, ‘Americanisation’ and an assumption of one-way cultural traffic towards Australia. Although the United States is one of Australia’s most important economic partner countries and a close political ally, Australian culture and literature remains comparatively invisible within US critical discourse.

Why has Australia received so little attention in US literary circles? What cultural factors (assumptions, fears and inhibitions) are in play here? How have they changed over time as affected by political changes, or stylistic or genre transformations?

The essays in Reading Across the Pacific take American and Australian literatures out of the nationalist frameworks of the past, look at them in a global context, and attempt to redress the balance. In view of the continuing wave of Australian novelists publishing in the United States, and cultural phenomenons like the recent visit of Oprah, there is hope for a change in the level of Australia’s recognition in the US.


Here is a link to an article on "Great Literature About the Land Down Under" in The Wall Street Journal

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