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The nineteenth-century French writer Stendhal famously observed that “politics in a literary work is like a gun shot in the middle of a concert: it’s something vulgar and coarse, which is also impossible to ignore.” Stendhal’s analogy posits the traditional model of literature as the realm of the aesthetic, expressive of beauty and universal moral truths, and which is regarded as superior to the grubby realm of “politics” – loosely defined here as pertaining to issues of power and human rights. This model naively presupposes the existence of non-political literature – as if it’s possible for any writing to exist in an ideology-free zone. Nevertheless, Stendhal’s comment also rightly highlights the challenge for a creative writer intent on exploring overtly political issues: how to avoid being “vulgar and coarse”; that is, ideologically dogmatic or morally self-righteous; how not to insult the intelligence of the reader, regardless of their political beliefs. This presentation will consider the creative strategies used in my political novel The Art of Persuasion in order avoid those pitfalls: the use of the romance genre to explore love as moral concept in our hyper-sexualised culture; and the use of wit or intelligent humour to raise questions about the crucial political issues of asylum seekers and climate change. I pay particular attention to my novel’s allusions to the fiction of Jane Austen, and its adherence to the Horatian dictum that writing should both delight and instruct. My novel The Art of Persuasion aims to give readers aesthetic delight – the pleasures of language and story – in order to encourage reflection on the issues that matter to me as a writer and a member of civil society.
Dr Susan Midalia has studied at Cambridge University and the University of Western Australia, where she completed a PhD in contemporary Australian women’s fiction. She has published in national and international literary journals, and taught in secondary and tertiary institutions for many years. Since becoming a full-time writer in 2006, she has published three collections of short stories, all of them shortlisted for major national literary awards: A History of the Beanbag (2007), An Unknown Sky (2012), and Feet to the Stars (2015). Her debut novel The Art of Persuasion was published in 2018, and her second novel has recently been accepted for publication.
The current display in the Special Collections foyer of donations by the Friends of the Library features maps showing the Dutch interest in the Indian Ocean region. These maps include copies of Polus Antarcticus by Jansson 1650, Frederick de Wit’s Orientaliora Indiarum Orientalium 1680, Mare del Sud 1765 by Zatta and Abraham Ortelius’ 1574 Indiae orientalis insvlarvmqve adiacientivm typvs.
The Friends of the Library have recently donated a facsimile copy of the Barcelona Haggadah to Special Collections. The illuminated Hebrew manuscript dates from the fourteenth century and contains the Haggadah, Laws for Passover, piyyutim and Torah readings for the festival of Passover according to the Spanish rite. The purchase of the facsimile was supported by Assoc/Prof Suzanne Wijsman (Chair of Strings Conservatorium of Music) for her research as the manuscript contains illustrations of musical instruments. Special Collections will next be open on Tuesday 11th June from 6.30pm – 7.15pm for members to view the Barcelona Haggadah.
Kathryn Maingard – [email protected]
or 08 6488 2356