Sydney university abolishing its chair in Australian literature
Literature has an important role in enriching people's lives. I greatly enjoyed my own literary studies of long ago. And formal literary studies have an undoubted role in introducing people to works they might not otherwise come to know. So this decision seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. I personally think that taxpayer-funded education should primarily be vocationally focused but it would be a bleak system that did not also have some role for personal development.
So what's behind this decision? It's pretty clearly a part of the Leftist attack on patriotism. The Left want us all to become undifferentiated internationalists. It's only a slight revision of the old aim to create a "New Soviet Man". The corrupt United Nations is the great multicolored hope of the Left. Mr Trump strikes at their very heart
There is a lot of distinctively Australian literature and I think a lot of it is pretty good -- Patrick White and Kath Walker excepted. It introduces us to times and places in Australia that we would not usually come to know about otherwise.
Publisher Michael Heyward has launched an attack on the University of Sydney, describing the sandstone institution's decision to cut off funding for its Australian literature chair as a "shocking betrayal of readers and writers" that "reveals a contempt for books"
The university recently said it had withdrawn internal funding for the chair; the oldest and most prestigious of its type in AUstralia, while it searched for external funding for the role.
The move, which follows the retirement of the university's fourth professor of Australian literature, Robert Dixon, shocked many as the chair was the nation's first dedicated professorship of Australian literature when it was set up 57 years ago.
Heyward, managing director of Melbourne publishing house Text Publishing, said withdrawal of university funds from the historically important role was a case of Sydney joining the "philistine ranks" of other universities, whose Australian literature offerings had traditionally been "paltry".
"In the sorry history of the teaching of Australian literature in our universities, Sydney has been the outlier since 1962 when its chair was founded by public subscription," he said "Now it has joined the philistine ranks of its fellow institutions.
"Not even the Australian National University has a chair in Australian literature. What kind of country can't bear to teach its own literature? What kind of university has no curiosity about the writers who have shaped our imaginations, and have informed how we think?"
Heyward, whose company publishes local and international authors as well Australian classics, said "our universities are increasingly cut off from Australia's dynamic literary life, from our festivals and from our bookstores and from the readers who keep them alive".
Elizabeth Webby, a former professor of Australian literature at Sydney University, called the defunding of the role "very disappointing", warning that if external funding wasn't found and the chair was abandoned, it would leave just one Ozlit chair for academics nationwide, at the University of Western Australia.
"The only (full-time) chair that actually involves an academic doing courses in Australian literature is at UWA, which is government-funded," she said, The UWA chair was established after The Australian exposed how, in 2006, there was just one full-time Australian literature chair still operating -- the Sydney role now under threat
The University of Melbourne has had an externally funded professorship of Australian literature since 2015, reserved for authors rather than academics.
Paul Giles, Sydney University's Challis Professor of English, said the withdrawal of university funds from the chair was caused, in part, by falling student enrolments in Ozlit subjects and fewer research grants going to the humanities. He said the university still employed three fUll-time Ozlit specialists and two part-time lecturers, but admitted that the university had yet to begin its search for external funds
From "The Weekend Australian" of 26/10/2019