Tuesday, 16 December 2008

You can have your doubts, but denying the cultural gulf separating Australia is wrong

Via a recent list of books for a university course and a corresponding post, I pointed out that Australia is rapidly developing into a relict of the culture praised by a substantial Right in America and a tiny number elsewhere in the world. Whilst the cultural differences between Australia and other OECD nations are growing clearer and larger year by year (especially on environmental policy and social issues like homosexual marriage and racial that are never, even mentioned in Australia), there is no corresponding increase in the publicity surrounding them.

My brother denies that Australia is increasingly becoming a cultural relict. To support his contention he says that, contrary to what the Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature says, there are still courses in the classics easily available. Whilst I accept both that fact and his evidence, it is impossible for me to believe that a quite conservative father or mother would allow children to take a course like this one if something more focused on literature like The Canterbury Tales, Jane Austen or Flannery O‘Connor existed.

As a student of Recreational Literature for Young People at RMIT in 2007 I read quite a number of very new children's books. Although I will not pretend to have analysed them any more than superficially, I certainly could not see in them the themes supposedly dominating the literature of introductory American college courses.

Most of the books I read were about themes used in literature throughout its existence, such as loneliness (Walking Naked, An Abundance of Katherines), social responsibility (On the Jellicoe Road), struggles with reality (Secret Scribbled Notebooks), emotional problems (Love Cuts) and what to do in the event of social disasters (How I Live Now). Two of the books were historical - The Red Shoe dealing with the Petrov affair of the 1950s and Secrets of the Fearless about the Anglo-French wars of the Napoleonic era.

Striking about my course was the utter absence of books targetting homophobia, religion, or patriarchy. Although one much remember the course was on child and young adult literature, my professors told me they were not averse themselves to such themes. If attacks on homophobia, religion, or patriarchy are dominant in North American courses, Australia's distance from the culture of other OECD nations is already great and I don’t feel I have touched its true tip.

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