Front matter


  • Brian Kiernan


The first essay here, 'Literature, History, and Literary History', was written in the mid-1970s. My impression then was that literary history was regarded, unfairly, as at best a mustily antiquarian pursuit; at worst as a questionable hybrid which attempted to reconcile mundane 'extrinsic' matters of bibliographical and biographical fact with criticism's higher, 'intrinsic' purposes-the interpretation and evaluation of individual poems, fictions and plays.


That general impression changed utterly when The Oxford History of Australian Literature, edited by Leonie Kramer, appeared in 1981. Hostile reactions to it, alleging that its 'intrinsic' appraisals of fiction, poetry and drama ignored a range of contexts and other forms of writing, showed that literary history was anything but a musty pursuit to be relegated to a less critically or theoretically aware past. Instead it provided a focus for an otherwise seemingly disparate range of contemporary concerns.