As I walked into my first Australian Literature lecture 12 weeks ago I was not sure what to expect. It had been many years between any forms of study and while I had read many great contemporary Australian works in my later years, I never really had a passion or interest for Australian writers and their work. During high school, for example, I recall studying the poems of Judith Wright and at the time not really appreciating her skill as a poet. As I have gotten older I have come to understand her romantic outlook of the world and her relationship towards nature and the passion Wright showed toward the landscape of Australia. I don’t remember studying any Australian novels at that time.
Growing up a child of the 1980’s I grew up on American television shows and therefore by some form of condition, I am reluctant to say, had read many of the great American novels by great American authors. Now 12 weeks later, not only do I have a greater understanding of what it means to be Australian, I also have a deeper connection to the past as told through the words of some of our best writers.
The works of Indigenous authors and those writing about their experiences in a wider context provided an insight to the plight of the original owners of this land. Authors like Eliza Dunlop and Oodgeroo Noonuccal demonstrated the hideous acts imposed by the Europeans and the consequence impact on human life.
The class trip to the NSW Art Gallery to view Australian paintings from the early to late 19th Century right through to the late 20th Century provided a wider scope of the art created around this time. Most of these paintings are of the natural Australian landscape and it is interesting to see how over time the perspective of the various artists changed.
My favourite part of this whole experience is by far the tutorials. The chance to explore these works further and the opportunity to discuss, dissect the texts and open up dialogue as to what we think or feel the author is trying to convey. The interpretations offered by my fellow classmates allowed me to see the work in a way that I may not have considered and, hopefully, visa versa. Seeing students who were shy in the first few classes or too scared to offer their opinion were now challenging each other. I am not ashamed to say that on a number of occasions I have moved emotionally by the writings presented during this class, some of which I will now carry with me always. That is what art is for. It should make you feel. Provoke thoughts. Make you ask questions. See the world differently.
“There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world: children and art.” – James Lapine