The year 2021 represents an important milestone in Australian literary history – the fiftieth anniversary of David Ireland’s Miles Franklin Prize-winning novel The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. This anniversary comes at a time of unprecedented economic, political and social dislocation, as the world deals with the uneven effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, intensifying climate change, increased geopolitical tensions and the rise of nationalism. In many ways, this multi-faceted crisis is being experienced as a crisis of space.
In the midst of this crisis, novel ways to understand the spatiality of our societies assume a fresh importance. One particularly intriguing approach is literary geography. This burgeoning area of research is premised on the idea that literature ‘knows things’ about the spatial framework of the world it is born into.
The Department of Political Economy and The Novel Network, both at the University of Sydney, are co-hosting a focus on Space, Place and Capitalism: The Literary Geographies of The Unknown Industrial Prisoner by Brett Heino, which represents the first time this literary economy approach has been applied to the work of David Ireland, who is perhaps the pre-eminent Australian author of space.
In particular, Heino theorises the relationship between space and place in literature through two highly innovative arguments: 1) a focus on the spatial unconscious as a means to assess and track the spatiality of capitalism in the novel form; and 2) the articulation of a regime of space through the perceived, conceived and lived constitution of space. Drawing together concepts from radical geography and structural Marxist literary theory, Heino explores the dominance of the regime of abstract space in the Australian context. His book also examines the nature and possibilities of place-based strategies of resistance and concludes by suggesting opportunities for future research and plotting the ways in which The Unknown Industrial Prisoner continues to speak to contemporary Australia.
Chair: Professor Adam David Morton, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Dr Sarah Comyn, University College Dublin
Professor Emeritus John Frow, Department of English, University of Sydney
Response: Dr Brett Heino, University of Technology Sydney
Thursday 14 October, 7:00pm (AEDT)
Registration Link: https://bit.ly/3zdZDGP