By Robert Dixon
The publication of Anthony Uhlmann’s edited collection of essays, Gerald Murnane: Another World in This One, in March 2020 marks the tenth title to appear in the Sydney University Press Studies in Australian Literature series. This is a landmark event that is worthy of celebration.
The series was established in 2014 to address the felt need for a dedicated series of scholarly works in the field of Australian literature. It addresses the senior schools and university markets, while also serving both professional scholars and educated general readers interested in Australian books and authors. Other university presses had published such series in the past – Oxford in the 1970s and again, briefly, in the 1990s; UQP in the 1980s and 1990s – but when we first began to plan the SUP series, it had been more than twenty years since the last of those books appeared. In the meantime, an entire generation or two of Australian writers had come to prominence without having had the benefit of serious scholarly and critical attention being paid to their work, while many earlier studies required updating.
SUP’s publisher Susan Murray and I also envisaged the series as building upon and bringing forward into the present the University of Sydney’s rich legacy of teaching, scholarship and publication in the field of Australian Literary studies. This includes the historic Chair in Australian Literature, established in 1963 and previously held by G.A. Wilkes, Leonie Kramer and Elizabeth Webby, Sydney University Press’ significant publications in the past – notably its beautiful facsimiles and editions of early colonial texts – and its contemporary innovative commitment to new modes of digital publication.
My own book about the novels of Alex Miller, published in 2014, was consciously designed as a lead-in to the series, offering the first comprehensive, book-length study of this major Australian writer. Designer Miguel Yamin gave us a striking cover design that has served us well as a distinctive template for subsequent titles in the series, which also features classic page design and comprehensive but user-friendly documentation.
While the series focuses on sole-authored studies and edited collections of essays about the work of leading Australian authors – Alex Miller, Christina Stead, Elizabeth Harrower, Tim Winton, Shirley Hazzard, Richard Flanagan and Gerald Murnane among them – it also includes books that reflect important thematic, historical and methodological trends in the evolving and increasingly international discipline of Australian literary studies, including titles surveying both contemporary and colonial fiction by Nicholas Birns, Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver, and the signal contribution by Australian scholars to the international fields of book history and publishing studies: David Carter and Roger Osborne’s Australian Books and Authors in the American Marketplace 1840s-1940s is an exemplary contribution to those fields, and will be widely read by North American and European scholars.
Despite the University of Sydney’s disappointing and widely criticised decision not to re-appoint the Chair of Australian Literature after my retirement in June 2019, the University remains committed to the continuation of this important series of scholarly publications. I will continue as General Editor of the series and I am actively engaged in discussions with current and future authors. There are many more outstanding titles forthcoming and in production, including the first sole-authored study of the much loved and widely taught fiction of Gail Jones, a separate edited collection of essays on her work, a pioneering study of Miles Franklin’s little-known American phase, a landmark study of Patrick White as playwright, and a collection of essays on the early colonial poet Eliza Hamilton Dunlop that uses the perspectives of both Indigenous studies and the new Romanticism studies.
In its 2016 review of Lyn McCredden’s The Fiction of Tim Winton the journal of record, Australian Book Review, acknowledged that SUP’s Studies in Australian Literature series had clearly established itself as the go-to series in the field.
Robert Dixon is Emeritus Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, Honorary Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Queensland, and General Editor of the Sydney University Press Studies in Australian Literature series.
During March and April 2020, receive 10% off all books in the series by using the discount code SSAL10 at checkout.