The Advancing Wave: Australian Literary Biography Since 1980
Abstract'Who left the gate open?' asks Chris Wallace-Crabbe early in his lively chapter on 'Autobiography' in The Penguin New Literary History of Australia (1988), 'How did autobiography disguise itself? Or were the rules of the game changed for some clutch of reasons?' He is observing that autobiographies have begun to receive a great deal more critical consideration, at a time when 'the construction of all literary canons has become subject to radical questioning'. Such questioning (not least of the assumed categorical distinction between 'imaginative' and 'non-fictional' prose) has led to the admission of autobiography into the class of 'serious literature', even though the genre he is surveying seems to be a 'parody, or at least a black-and-white caricature' of other literary genres. For while autobiography also claims to refer to life, 'it does so a good deal more crassly', thus raising what he calls 'all those coarse, nagging questions about whether it is art ... or merely documentation.'