Author/s:Cole, Creagh
PDF-file. Pagination as in the original proceeding.85-89.pdf
Title:A New Continent into Literature:
The Australian Literature Database at the
University of Sydney Library
Abstract:In 1973, the Australian novelist Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his novel “The Eye of the Storm.” At the ceremony in Stockholm the novelist was honoured for his “epic and psychological narrative art, which has introduced a new continent into literature.” This was undoubtedly true and White’s achievements have been followed by a new generation of novelists, poets and dramatists: Peter Carey, David Malouf, Les Murray, to name only a few. Patrick White’s award has always seemed to Australians to have tremendous significance, perhaps because it put to rest internationally the old colonial worries about whether Australians were capable of producing truly great art. However, there has always been a problem for contemporary Australian literary studies in its lack of any sense of a tradition predating our modern writers. It is as if we Australians did not begin to write about our experiences until the middle of this century. There were, of course, important writers before and contemporary with Patrick White, and he himself named a number as worthy of the acclaim surrounding his own work. But leaving aside the debates and concerns about what constitutes “great art” and “great literature”, there is a more “archaeological” approach to a nation’s literary output, and one that is peculiarly amenable to electronic forms of publication and dissemination. This approach is evident in the creation of a database at the University of Sydney Library - The Australian Literature Database: A Collection of 18th 19th and 20th Century Australian Texts.