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CHRG Seminar Series 2022 – Joshua Black – Wednesday 12 October 11am

Bleeding Off the Page: A Cultural History of the Political Memoir in Australia

Geoff Pryor, “Nice Hand Writing!”. National Library of Australia, PIC Drawer 9751 #PIC/8765/233.

Since the 1990s, forms of political life writing have proliferated rapidly in Australia. Formerly a rarity, the politicians’ memoir or autobiography is now an instantly recognizable product in political discourse and in the local literary marketplace. Though often characterised by vanity, egotism and animosity, politicians’ memoirs and autobiographies have in fact been driven by significant transformations in Australian political culture over time. Drawing on textual and media archives as well as nearly fifty new oral history interviews, this thesis locates the modern memoir boom in its cultural, ideological, emotional and commercial contexts. Summarising the findings of my doctoral thesis, this paper will outline the ways in which the new emotional texture of modern politics, significant ideological disruptions, gendered and professional changes in the political class, and revolutions in the publishing industry have created the “memoir boom”.

Joshua Black is a PhD candidate in the School of History and National Centre of Biography, ANU. He has published and presented historical research on the history of Australia’s political culture in a number of fora and has contributed to public discussion in forums such as the Conversation, Inside Story, the Australian Book Review and ABC Radio. In 2021, he co-edited a special issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History with Dr Stephen Wilks. He has worked in the field of Higher Education equity and support, and has been active in undergraduate teaching at the ANU and elsewhere.

You can join us online via zoom, or in person at Waurn Ponds or Burwood.