Jo Jones Lecture

12 September 2018
Austin Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, UWA
General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni

Book a seat

Jo Jones

Falling Backwards: Australian Historical Fiction and the History Wars

The Novel and History in Australia: An uneasy friendship?

A public lecture by Dr Jo Jones, Lecturer in Literary and Cultural Studies, Curtin University

Questions of narrative and linguistic form have preoccupied novelists, historians and theorists for at least a century and, most particularly, since the Crisis of the Representation in the post-war period. This was a response, among other things, to widespread atrocity. When confronted with a national past framed by acts of atrocity, Australian novelists have taken on challenges of history and form that have yielded varied aesthetic and political results. 

The relative formal freedoms offered through historical novels, when compared to conventional history writing offer the chance to confront the past in all of its contradiction and complexity. The terrain of the postmodern and historical sublime — of loss and uncertainly — is one in which historical fiction can perform an important political and ethical role. 

Here, Jo Jones discusses the way novels engage Australian history, from novels written in the Bicentenary year to the present time. Jones explores the journeys that authors have made, through one or more novels, into both openly recognised and hidden histories. These authors include Richard Flanagan, Rodney Hall, Kate Grenville, David Malouf and Kim Scott.

Jo Jones is a lecturer in Literary and Cultural Studies at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. She has a PhD on Australian historical novels and the History Wars and has taught extensively at various universities including the University of Tasmania and The University of Western Australia. At present, Jo is working on recent versions of Australian Gothicism and, also, the connection between literature, modernity and place. She has recently published an co-edited volume, Required Reading: A History of Secondary English Syllabus Lists with Tim Dolin and Patricia Dowsett, Monash UP, 2017.

This talk is based on the topic of Jo Jones’ latest book, Falling Backwards: Australian Historical Fiction and the History Wars, published by UWA Publishing. Copies of the book will be available on the night, or pre-order your copy here .

Jo's talk is presented by UWA Publishing and the Institute of Advanced Studies.