The Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) Conference 2017 has the goal, as every year, to draw the attention to Australian writing and indigenous literary contents in order to promote the Australian writers and community to a broader audience. In today’s world, it is important to seek international attention as to share the valuable heritage, tradition, history, and literature with the world.
The ASAL conferences have already gained a reputation as one of the greatest literary events that take place every year. As of 2017, the ASAL Conference 2017: Looking In, Looking Out: China and Australia will be held in Melbourne from 11 July to 14 July 2017, in cooperation with China. The list of attendees and participants is composed
of professors, students, scholars, and writers; and it was hard to shortlist applicants since a great number of people applied. The venues where the Conference will be hosted are university campuses of the La Trobe and Melbourne University, as well as the Wheeler Center at the State Library, and the Library at the Dock.
What Will the ASAL Conference 2017 Be About?
The major focus will be on promoting Australian literature beyond the island-continent. The organizers want presenters to ponder about the Australian literary works and to go back home taking a part of what they have learned with them. Indigenous literary works will also be highlighted as they represent an important feature in the development of Australia and its literature in general.
Certain time and space will also be given to the topic of teaching Australian literature and how it differs from teaching in the past. All participants are welcome to dive into the context of place, content, and to try to transfer their reflection from the local onto the global level.
The biggest number of centers of Australian literature studies can be found in China, so it is just natural to invite and cooperate with Chinese scholars who study the Australian literature at one of the Chinese-based centers and give them the opportunity to meet with other international scholars from around the world who study and examine Australian literature. The purpose is to discuss all the changes, impacts on Australian literature, as well as how it is perceived from country to country.
Who Are the Organizers?
The Conference Organizing Committee consists of the ASAL President Sue Martin from the La Trobe University, Associate Professor Larissa Davis from the Melbourne University, and two professors from the Deakin University – Wenche Ommundsen and Lyn McCredden.
Membership and Fees
As a member of ASAL, you can enjoy various benefits, as for example reduced conference fees, and you get notified of events held by ASAL. The membership year does not follow the calendar year, but counts from July 1 to June 30. Membership fees are divided into four categories: post-graduate ($40 two-year membership), concession holders ($60), individuals (fee $90), and institutions ($110). This means that all interested parties can join the Association before the Conference starts this year.
The Conference will be sponsored and supported by the three universities: Melbourne University, The Deakin University, and the La Trobe University.
What is Exactly the Association for the Study of Australian Literature?
The ASAL was established in New South Wales already in 1899 also establishing the Australian Literature Society in order to promote the Australian
culture, authors, and its writing. We have already said that they hold conferences around the world to keep the interest in Australian Literature Studies at the level it deserves.
For example, just last month, April 2017, the ASAL held an event concerning Australian writing after the revolution of the Internet. The focus of the discussion was how the “digital literary sphere” (a term coined by Simone Murray in 2015) had influenced literature as it became available on the Internet. Reading sites and e-books became the major sources of reading, and it altered our perception of the books we read. Many presenters raised the question of literary aesthetics which was also changed with the introduction of digital reading content, and how such aesthetics has been reincorporated in hard copies.
The mini-conference also included discussions on the production of literary works and how they are sold online or via e-retailers. All of this also influenced the Australian literature which became significantly digital in the form of online reviewing sites, customer reviews on Amazon, etc. The conference lasted for two days including a conference symposium.
Awards and Publications
The ALS Gold Medal is being given every year for a literary piece that was published in the year before. There are no nominations, but ASAL members may give suggestions and their opinions to the jury. The shortlisted works and candidates for this year include The Easy Way Out (Hachette) by Steven Amsterdam, Ghostspeaking (Vagabond) by Peter Boyle, Between a Wolf and a Dog (Scribe) by Georgia Blain, and others.
Before 1937, this award was only given to novelists, but after the said year, the category was extended to include other literary forms. Other awards are also given by ASAL like the Walter McRae Russell Award, the Mary Gilmore Award, the Magarey Medal for Biography, etc.
The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume 12: The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Since 1950 is to be released in June this year, and it contains an overview of prose fiction in Australia and other countries since 1950, exploring the topics of increased nationalism, independence, transnationalism, and multiculturalism after 1945. Many scholars worldwide contributed to the edition of this volume, including, of course, Australians as well. Chapters on Australia were written by renowned scholars like Elizabeth Webby, Margaret Harris, Peter Minter, and Brigid Rooney. They contributed immensely to a truthful portrayal of the Australian perspective and development of literature in the post-colonial Pacific. It was edited by Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcott.
This volume represents a comprehensive overview of postcolonial fiction and prose in the eyes of the Transpacific people. The change of society after WWII has made the world pay more attention to marginalized peoples and their literary works and forms, among others, Australian indigenous literature as well.