Mapping Australian Literary Commemoration in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra: Problems and Prospects


  • Toby Davidson Macquarie University
  • Donna Houston Dept of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University


Map, gap, commemoration, memory, statue, Cook, Indigenous, Said, postcolonialism


In 2015 was launched by literature, geography, media and culture researchers Toby Davidson, Donna Houston, John Potts, Ian Collinson, Steve Collins. It combines field research with Google Maps technology to reveal, for the first time, the spread of old and new commemorative sites of Australian literature in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Previous maps, such as Monument Australia and the Cultural Atlas of Australia, have not included sites of literary commemoration. The present essays by Toby Davidson, Donna Houston contribute to an emergent field of international scholarship within the humanities interested space, place and the geo and digital humanities. The project provides a fresh basis for comparative scholarship with international literary maps and placemaking – including, for example, Franco Moretti’s Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (1998) to David Cooper et al’s Literary Mapping in the Digital Age (2016).    


Drawing on the findings of the 'Words in Place' project, this paper argues that while forms of literary commemoration in Australia have diversified and have been incorporated into creative place-making strategies, the representation of authors represents the ongoing enactment of white settler colonialism in public spaces.  Where non-Anglo and Indigenous authors are represented in place, they tend to be in mediated spaces such as writers’ walks rather than in dedicated, stand-alone sites.  More recent material representations of Australian writers in creative place-making has seen a shift away from a focus on the writer to a focus on writing – where textual inscriptions become forms of public art. We argue that this has created opportunities for more living writers to be publically commemorated than ever before, enabling literary representation in creative place-making to more accurately reflect Australia’s multicultural pasts and present.

Author Biography

Toby Davidson, Macquarie University

Senior lecturer, Dept of English


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