This year’s convention is entitled ’The Literary Interface’ because of the connections literature has to so many parts of our lives.
A major literary symposium hosted by The Australian National University (ANU) has opened with a keynote speech by Australian author Charlotte Wood in which she challenged the notion of "relatability" in literature.
The five-day Literary Studies convention brings together the research and work of local and international scholars and authors to examine the importance of literature in society. Organiser of the event, Dr Julieanne Lamond of the ANU School of Literature, Languages & Linguistics said the goal of the conference is to show that literature is part of what we live and breathe every day.
"This year’s convention is entitled ’The Literary Interface’ because of the connections literature has to so many parts of our lives. The connection between what we read and what we experience, the connection between a writer and reader, the critic and the broader community," she said.
In her Barry Andrews Memorial Address, entitled "Grit in the Oyster: Why Literature needs disturbance" Ms Wood examined her reaction to art she found unsettling and, applying this to challenging literature concluded that, as readers, we need to be taken out of our comfort zone now and again.
The author of five novels and two non-fiction works has been described as one of Australia’s most original and provocative writers, and her latest novel, "The Natural Way of Things" was the joint fiction winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.
A number of hotly contested literary awards were announced at the opening of the conference, with the most prestigious of these, The ALS (Australian Literature Society) Gold Medal delivered an upset with established writers like Peter Carey and Gerald Murnane pipped by a young writer, Shastra Deo, with her first book, a collection of poems called "The Agonist".
There was a very strong field for the Magarey Medal for biography including well-known historian Judith Brett, and the first biography of Helen Garner. But Alexis Wright took the prize with ’Tracker’ a biography of Indigenous activist Tracker Tilmouth.
The Mary Gilmore Award for Poetry was won by Quinn Eades’ with ’Rallying’, which was written before he began transitioning from female to male.
And the A.D. Hope Prize for best postgraduate essay was won by Valérie-Anne Belleflamme from the University of Liège, for her essay on Chinese aesthetics in Gail Jones’ work "Five Bells".
This is the second time the Literary Studies Convention has been staged and will be held every three years.
It was the brainchild of Association for the Study of Australian Literature, the Australasian Association for Literature, the Australasian Universities Languages and Literature Association, and the Australian University Heads of English.
A full program for the convention can be found here: slll.cass.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/2018/6/2018_Literary_Studies_Convention_Program_1.pdf