Bennett, Bruce (Harry) 1941-
BENNETT, Bruce (Harry) 1941-
Born March 23, 1941, in Perth, Australia; son of Harry Clarkson and Jessie Winetta (Glenister) Bennett; married Patricia Ann Staples, July 8, 1967, children: Michael Bruce, Catherine Patricia. Ethnicity: "Anglo-Australian/Caucasian." Education: University of Western Australia, B.A., 1963; Oxford University, B.A., 1967, M.A. 1972; University of London, M.A. (education), 1974. Religion: Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Australian rules football, cricket, travel, cinema.
Home—3 Brand St., Hughes, ACT 2605, Australia. Office—School of Humanities, Australian Defence Force Academy, The University of New South Wales, Canberra ACT 2600, New South Wales, Australia. E-mail—[email protected]
University teacher, writer, researcher, and manager. Mt. Lawley Senior High School, teacher, 1964, University of Western Australia, lecturer, 1968-74, senior lecturer, 1975-84, associate professor, 1985-92, director of Center for Studies in Australian Literature, 1982-92; University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, professor of English, 1993—, head of English, 1993-2000; Australian National University, adjunct professor, 2002—. Consultant to International Development Program for Australian National Commission for UNESCO, 1985-90, and Australia-India Council, 2002—. Fellow, Australian College of Education and Academy of Humanities of Australia; honorary professor, University of Queensland, 2001—. Has also worked as a visiting professor at multiple universities and institutions.
Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (vice president, 1998-2002), Modern Language Association (chair of division 33), Association for the Study of Australian Literature.
Rhodes scholar, 1964-67; Leverhulme Trust fellow, National University of Singapore, 1976; Western Australian Premier's Award for Literature, nonfiction, 1993; Offices of the Order of Australia, 1993.
(With J. A. Hay) Directions in Australian Secondary School English, Longman (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 1971.
(Editor) New Country: A Selection of Western Australian Short Stories, with woodcuts by Guy Grey-Smith, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Australia), 1976.
(Editor) The Literature of Western Australia, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 1979.
(With William Grono) Wide Domain: Western Australian Themes and Images, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1979.
(Editor) Cross Currents: Magazines and Newspapers in Australian Literature, Longman Cheshire (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1981.
(With John Hay and Susan Ashford) Western Australian Literature: A Bibliography, Longman Cheshire (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1981.
(Editor, with Ee Tiang Hong and Ron Shepherd) The Writer's Sense of the Contemporary: Papers in Southeast Asian and Australian Literature, Centre for Studies in Australian Literature (Nedlands, Australia), 1982.
Place, Region, and Community, Foundation for Australian Literary Studies (Townsville, Queensland, Australia), 1984.
(With John Hay) European Relations: Essays for Helen Watson-Williams, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 1995.
(Editor, with Alur Janaki) Encounters: Selected Indian and Australian Short Stories, Pointer Publishers (Jaipur, India), 1988.
(Editor, with Laurie Hergenhan) The Penguin New Literary History of Australia, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor) A Sense of Exile: Essays in the Literature of the Asia-Pacific Region, Centre for Studies in Australian Literature (Nedlands, Australia), 1988.
(With Peter Cowan, John Hay, and Susan Ashford) Western Australian Writing: A Bibliography, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (South Fremantle, Australia), 1990.
An Australian Compass: Essays on Place and Direction in Australian Literature, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (South Fremantle, Australia), 1991.
(Editor, with Susan Miller) Peter Cowan: New Critical Essays, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 1992.
(Editor, with Peter Cowan and others) Westerly Looks to Asia: A Selection from Westerly 1956-1992, University of Western Australia (Nedlans, Australia), 1993.
(Editor, with Susan Hayes) Daughters of the Sun: Short Stories from Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press (Nedlands, Australia), 1994.
(Editor) Dorothy Hewett: Selected Critical Essays, Fremantle Arts Center Press (South Fremantle, Australia), 1995.
(Editor, with Jeff Doyle and Satendra Nandan) Crossing Cultures: Essays on Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific, Skoob (London, England), 1996.
(Editor, with Jennifer Strauss and associate editor Chris Wallace-Crabbe) The Oxford Literary History of Australia, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1998.
(Editor, with Susan Hayes) Home and Away: Australian Stories of Belonging and Alienation, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 2000.
Australian Short Fiction: A History, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 2002.
(Editor, with Susan Cowan and others) Resistance and Reconciliation: Writing in the Commonwealth, Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (Canberra, Australia), 2003.
Editor of Westerly: Quarterly Review, 1975-92; with Jeff Doyle and Satendra Nandan, Crossing Cultures: Essays in Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific, Skoob Books, c. 1996. Also author of A Sense of Exile University of Western Australia, c. 1990. Author's selected publications have been translated into Malaysian and Chinese.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Literary, historical, and biographical studies; research on the figure of the spy in literature.
As an editor and author, Bruce Bennett has made numerous contributions to the study of Australian literature. A professor of English at the University of New South Wales, he has edited a wide array of essay and short story collections and The Oxford Literary History of Australia. He is also the author of a biographical and critical study of Peter Porter and essays on Australian literature and short fiction. Within these works, he has addressed the issues and themes pertinent to Australian literature, including place, connections to the East and West, settlement, conquest, forced migration, and indigenous traditions. Several of his books are focused on the subject of writing from Western Australia, while others encompass Asian and Indian literature.
When Bennett collected essays for the Literature of Western Australia, one of his earliest books of this kind, it was described by a Choice reviewer as "a first and significant reference work" on the subject. He has also collected the works of others in Peter Cowan: New Critical Essays, with the purpose of presenting the so-called "regional" writer as a figure of greater significance. Dorothy Hewett: Selected Critical Essays, provides a variety of perspectives on a writer famed for her experimental approach and bold treatment of sex and politics, beginning with Bobbin Up (1959). In Crossing Cultures: Essays in Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific, Bennett offers twenty-five essays from twelve countries, which were described in the Australian Book Review as covering the subjects of "contexts and theories, cross-cultural references, cinema stories, literary transactions, wars and conflicts, representing others, and finding space."
Bennett's most widely-reviewed book is The Oxford Literary History of Australia which responded to its controversial, conservative predecessor, The Oxford History of Australian Literature. Working with Jennifer Strauss and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Bennett created a volume that emphasizes how Australian literature shows diversity in thought, form, and influence. Political, sociological, and cultural themes prevail rather than an author-by-author or genre-by-genre approach. The book is divided into sections identifying "turning points or crises" in Australian history.
Critical response to The Oxford Literary History of Australia showed the book to be a somewhat unconventional work that revealed much about the status of Australian literature and its study. World Literature Today's John Scheckter commented that it was "a volume that will stand for a long while, both as a useful history and, perhaps even more lastingly, as a fine discussion of how literature was viewed at the turn of the century." Mandy Treagus described it as "an excellent overview of the significant titles, authors and movements in Australian literary life" in a review for the Journal of Australian Studies. In the Australian Book Review, Andrew Riemer reflected that "many will welcome the new history's broader scope, its determination to remove writers and their work from excessively aesthetic or high-culture cocoons, its emphasis on the unfolding, often contradictory and contentious attempts at national self-definition. Others will deplore its tendency to flatten out individuality or even idiosyncrasies in its excessively sociological and political, predominantly left-leaning concerns." In a review for Southerly, Elizabeth Webby found "evidence of a certain lack of confidence in the intrinsic interest of Australian literature," given the strong emphasis the book gave to a "competitor discipline—history."
Among Bennett's own writings is Spirit in Exile: Peter Porter and His Poetry, which contains both biography and analysis. Porter is an Australian who became a prolific poet in London. Bennett's book includes the story of Porter's childhood in Australia, his emigration in 1951, and relationships with family, women, and fellow poets, including the "Group." Alongside these elements, Bennett follows the poet's progress thematically and stylistically. He shows London and Australia as two influences from which the poet alternately drew, with Australia growing in importance over the years.
In a review for the Australian Book Review, Geoff Page said, "One of the great virtues of Spirit in Exile is that it attempts to 'place' Porter and to draw out how productive his experience of exile has been." Sean O'Brien's review for the Times Literary Supplement described the book as "the first substantial published study" on Porter. He considered the work to be "thorough, interesting and sometimes illuminating," with the author's best work being his treatment of Porter's early years.
In An Australian Compass: Essays on Place and Direction in Australian Literature, Bennett writes about the concepts of place, region, and community, most often in relation to post-World War II Australian literature. Among his essays, many of which were first published in periodicals, are chapters on the "West" in North America and Australia, the less well-known literature of Western Australia and the "Near North" that is sometimes eclipsed by writings coming from Sydney and Melbourne, and Australian literature's connections to Asia.
The focus of the book resonated with reviewers. In the Australian Book Review, Andrew Riemer commented that Bennett's essays "survey a vitally important preoccupation in contemporary Australian culture." He judged that they were "at times admirable and always competent essays." Writing for Choice, J. B. Beston characterized the book as "a series of loosely related musings" that were best read at random to reveal their "considerable charm." John P. Turner remarked in Modern Fiction Studies that the three types of locality defined by Bennett were "matters of no small consequence" and described the book as "contextual criticism … authors in their geographical, cultural, and historical milieux."
The short story is the subject of Bennett's Australian Short Fiction: A History. Reaching back to 1825, he describes how the form was first used by white settlers and then traces its development during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bennett shows how well the form reveals the work of writers outside of the mainstream, notably women, indigenous Australians, and other minorities. In a review for the Times Literary Supplement, Gail Jones called the book "a remarkable work of cultural and literary-critical restitution" and praised the author for having "charted so thoroughly and intelligently the way for others to follow." Enza Gandolfo wrote for Paperchain in the City that it is "the product of extensive reading and research … [and] is written in an accessible style by an academic who obviously has wide-ranging knowledge of and a passion for Australian literature."
Bruce Bennett told CA: "My main contributions in writing, editing, and scholarship to date have been in literary history and biography. While British and American literatures were major interests from school and university days in Australia, I did not learn to appreciate the literature and culture of my homeland until I went overseas.
"The approach for which I became first known was 'critical regionalism.' Through editing Westerly: Quarterly Review, meeting and talking with writers, leading bibliographic and literary historical projects, and teaching, I gradually developed an appreciation of Australian writers and their contexts. My own preferred forms of writing are essays and life-stories.
"Among the new contexts I saw for Australian literature and culture were those of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region—our 'near north.' A number of conferences and research projects led to edited books, articles, and essays. In my teaching, research, and writing, I strongly resisted 'death of the author' prescriptions in the 1980s and 90s. Biography and autobiography have always fascinated me. Along with a number of shorter biographical essays, I took on the challenge of the first book-length literary and biographical study of Australian-born poet, Peter Porter, in Spirit in Exile: Peter Porter and His Poetry. This book took some eight years to research and write, but was my most enjoyable writing experience to date. My best work was generally done between five a.m. and eight a.m.—often after dreaming about issues, problems, and phrases. The quest for appropriate form, structure, and texture, to reveal the workings of a complex, exilic imagination tested me to the limits. Very positive reviews and awards were an encouragement.
"When I moved to Australia's capital city, Canberra, in 1993, I developed a stronger interest in literary and cultural representations of 'the nation.' From these interests grew the research, reading, and consultations that led to The Oxford Literary History of Australia, and Australian Short Fiction: A History. Although the leadership and teamwork necessary to bring the The Oxford Literary History of Australia to fruition (with Jennifer Strauss) was a sustained challenge, researching and writing the first history of the short story in Australia gave me greater personal pleasure.
"My latest enthusiasm is a still embryonic engagement with the figure of the spy in literature—literature here being defined as broadly as I do elsewhere to include biography and memoir as well as the novel, short fiction, poetry, and drama."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Book Review, October, 1991, Geoff Page, review of Spirit in Exile, pp. 32-33; November, 1991, Andrew Riemer, review of An Australian Compass: Essays on Place and Direction in Australian Literature, pp. 18-20; December, 1996, Don Miller, review of Crossing Cultures: Essays in Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific, pp. 20-21; October, 1998, Andrew Riemer, review of The Oxford Literary History of Australia, pp. 14-16.
Australian Literary Studies, October, 1999, David Carter, review of The Oxford Literary History of Australia, p. 226.
Choice, January, 1981, review of Literature of Western Australia, p. 660; January, 1992, J. B. Beston, review of An Australian Compass, p. 739.
Journal of Australian Studies, September, 2000, Mandy Treagus, review of The Oxford Literary History of Australia, p. 241.
Modern Fiction Studies, summer, 1993, John P. Turner, review of An Australian Compass, pp. 417-419.
Southerly, autumn, 1999, Elizabeth Webby, review of The Oxford Literary History of Australia, p. 167.
Times Literary Supplement, January 24, 1992, Sean O'Brien, review of Spirit in Exile, p. 23.
World Literature Today, spring, 2000, John Scheckter, review of The Oxford Literary History of Australia, p. 353; November, 2002, Gail Jones, "Oceans of Story," p. 28.
Paperchain in the City,http://www.paperchain.com.au/ (February 21, 2003), Enza Gandolfo, review of Australian Short Fiction: A History.