‘The Writers’ Picnic’: Genealogy and Homographesis in the Fiction of Sumner Locke Elliott

Shaun Bell


Like many mid-century authors, Sumner Locke-Elliott fled Australia for more welcoming shores. From his first novel Careful He Might Hear You (1963), Locke-Elliott laid the foundations for a fictional self-authorship that suffused his writing with biographic detail and themes of origin, place and time. Despite his long absence from Australia and his naturalisation as an American citizen, his final novel and fictional coming out in Fairyland (1990) returns readers to the homophobic Sydney of his childhood. This blurring of biographic and fictional detail within the representational space of childhood creates an embodied literary network that connects Australia of the 1930s & 1940s and New York of the 1980s & 1990s, merging literary corpus and authorial life. Taking up this sense of presence, absence and connection, I argue that Locke-Elliot’s representation of childhood is a nostalgic point of interface that generatively refigures his oeuvre as an embodied queer and transnational literary network 


Sumner Locke Elliott, Australian Literature, the closet, nostalgia, homophobia

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