Writing and Political Change

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

In an era in which protestors against Donald Trump dress as characters from a Margaret Atwood novel, literature suddenly seems more implicated than ever before in the political process. But how effective is literature in effecting, or preparing for, political change? Can contemporary writing have an impact on how readers approach political issues? And what do contemporary writers think are the most pressing issues of our time? In conversation with Professor Frank Bongiorno, writers Jeanine Leane, Shannon Burns, Michelle Cahill, and Bruce Pascoe will discuss the importance of considering politics when writing fiction, poetry and narrative nonfiction.

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from southwest New South Wales. Her first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: A.D. 1887-1961 (2010, Presspress) won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry, 2010 and her first novel, Purple Threads (UQP), won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer in 2010 and was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and the Victorian Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing, 2012. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women's Liberation, The Journal for the Association European Studies of Australia, Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes and the Australian Book Review. Jeanine has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature, writing otherness and creative non-fiction. In 2017, Jeanine was the recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonucal Poetry Prize and the University of Canberra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Poetry Prize. She teaches Creative Writing and Aboriginal Literature at the University of Melbourne. The manuscript for her second volume of poetry, Walk Back Over was highly commended in the Black&Write Indigenous Writing Fellowships, State Library of Queensland, 2016 and was released in 2018 by Cordite Press.

Dr Shannon Burns is a freelance writer and critic based in Adelaide. His essays, reviews and short fiction have appeared in Best Australian Essays (2017), Meanjin, Overland, Sydney Review of Books, Australian Book Review, The Australian, and elsewhere. He is an early career research member of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice and a former ABR Patrons' Fellow. He was a lecturer and tutor at the University of Adelaide from 2011-2016, where he also delivered academic outreach programs (critical thinking and composition) to students from Low SES secondary schools in 2014-15.

Michelle Cahill is a Sydney writer. Her short story collection Letter to Pessoa won the NSW Premier's Literary Award for New Writing and was shortlisted in the Steele Rudd Queensland Literary Awards. Her honours include the Hilary Mantel International Short Story Prize, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Prize shortlist and the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award. Vishvarūpa was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. The Herring Lass, is published by Arc (UK). She was the CAL/UOW Poetry Fellow at Kingston Writing School and a Visiting Creative Writing Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She co-edited Contemporary Asian Australian Poets and is Series Editor for Vagabond Press, deciBels3. She is a Doctoral Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. @theherringlass

Bruce Pascoe published and edited Australian Short Stories magazine 1982-1999, and has won the Australian Literature Award (Shark) 1999, Radio National Short Story 1998, FAW Short Story 2010, Prime Minister's Award for Literature (Yong Adult) 2013, and NSW Premier's Book of the Year, Dark Emu, 2016. His books include Night Animals, Fox, Ruby Eyed Coucal, Shark, Ocean, Earth, Bloke, Cape Otway, Convincing Ground, Little Red Yellow and Black Book, Fog a dox and Dark Emu
Bruce is of Tasmanian, Bunurong and Yuin heritage. He is a board member of First Languages Australia and Past Secretary of the Bidwell-Maap Aboriginal Nation. His most recent books are Bloke (Penguin 2009), Chainsaw File (Oxford 2010), Fog a dox (Magabala 2012). The latter won the 2013 PM's Award, and was shortlisted for the WA Premier's Award and the Deadlies Award. Dark Emu, the history of Aboriginal agriculture, was published in 2014 and was shortlisted in the Victorian and Queensland Literature awards and won the NSW Premier's book of the Year (2016). His other YA novels include Sea Horse, Magabala (2015) and Mrs Whitlam (2016).
Bruce lives in Gipsy Point, Far East Gippsland with Lyn Harwood. He has two children, three grandchildren, and has played 520 games of ordinary suburban and country football. He is still playing ordinary A grade cricket.

Frank Bongiorno is a historian at ANU where he is Head of School of History from July 2018. He is the author of The Sex Lives of Australians: A History and The Eighties: The Decade That Transformed Australia, both published by Black Inc. He was chair of the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts Literature and History Committee from 2003 to 2005, and has reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, Australian Book Review, the Monthly, Fairfax and the Australian. He is a regular contributor to Inside Story and The Conversation and has reviewed fiction on ABC Radio National's The Bookshelf.