This spring, I’m trying to follow along with a free literature class from Coursera called Australian Literature: A Rough Guide. I’m a total nerd for reading (have you noticed?) but I’ve never gotten into any sort of Australian literature. I’ll admit my interest may have been piqued from watching a lot of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
I love the idea of massive, online open courses (MOOCs). Free lectures from great professors all over the world? Yes, sign me up! But I struggle with following through on the weekly readings and video lectures on the set schedule. The “learning and discovery” aspect is so enticing, but the “committing to hours of assignments while working full time and raising a toddler” is tricky. Especially when the classes are free and without any human obligation. Still, this is a great chance to explore an enormous body of literature, with guidance from experts and short suggested readings. I’m doing my darnedest to keep up with the syllabus.
Here’s some of the first week’s reading assignment:
Australians are surrounded by ocean and ambushed from behind by desert – a war of mystery on two fronts. What worries us about the sea and the desert? Is it scale or simple silence? Historically we see ourselves as outback types…
We are not sea people by way of being great mariners, but more a coastal people, content on the edge of things. We live by the sea not simply because it is more pleasant to a lazy nation, but because, of the two mysteries the sea is more forthcoming; its miracles and wonders are occasionally more palpable, however inexplicable they be.
(T. Winton, Land’s Edge)
Now he had tried Western Australia, and had looked at Adelaide and Melbourne. And the vast, uninhabited land frightened him. It seemed so hoary and lost, so unapproachable. The sky was pure, crystal pure and blue, of a lovely pale blue colour: the air was wonderful, new and unbreathed: and there were great distances. But the bush, the grey, charred bush. It scared him. As a poet, he felt himself entitled to all kinds of emotions and sensations which an ordinary man would have repudiated. Therefore he let himself feel all sorts of things about the bush. It was so phantom-like, so ghostly, with its tall pale trees and many dead trees, like corpses, partly charred by bush fires: and then the foliage so dark, like grey-green iron. And then it was so deathly still. Even the few birds seemed to be swamped in silence. Waiting, waiting – the bush seemed to be hoarily waiting. And he could not penetrate into its secret. He couldn’t get at it. Nobody could get at it. What was it waiting for?
(D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo)
Anyone else interested in reading some literature from the outback?
(Top image via the National Gallery of Australia)