We Call Upon the Author to Explain: Theorising Writers' Festivals as Sites of Contemporary Public Culture


  • Cori Stewart Queensland University of Technology


writers' festivals, urban festivals, literature, authors, public intellectuals, media, celebrity culture, public culture, public sphere


This paper outlines a new vantage point for theorising today’s writers’ festivals as significant sites of contemporary public culture. Increasingly writers’ festivals claim to be both popular and important sites of public discussion and debate, and this paper’s empirical analysis of the 2007 Brisbane Writers Festival bears out these qualities. Yet, this Festival also positions itself as a thinking person’s alternative to the ‘unstoppable urge in TV and newspapers towards providing infotainment’, and claims ‘people are looking to our writers for the tools with which to think, not to be told what to think’ (Campbell, Making Sense of Our World). Addressing the mix of claims made for the 2007 Brisbane Writers Festival, as well as analysing the the topics discussed at the Festival, this paper examines the Festival’s multiple public culture roles and functions. Included in the topics discussed at the Festival are those typically produced and ciruclated in the media such as celebrity culture, and rather than viewing this content as trivialising and manipulative─as many critics of writers’ festivals have done─this paper illustrates how the media extended the 2007 Brisbane Writers Festival’s public culture function.

Author Biography

Cori Stewart, Queensland University of Technology

In 2009, Cori Stewart was awarded her Docorate in Philosophy from the Queensland University of Technology where she works as a sessional lecturer, tutor and publications editor in the Creative Industries Faculty.