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Literary Activists:
Writer-Intellectuals And Australian Public Life


Judith Wright fought to save the Great Barrier Reef and campaigned for a Treaty with Aboriginal Australians. Patrick White led anti-nuclear peace marches and boycotted the Bicentenary. Helen Garner and Les Murray took a stand against political correctness.

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What drives our most outstanding literary figures to become activists and public intellectuals? Are they, in Shelley’s famous phrase, our ‘unacknowledged legislators’? How have their public interventions provoked us, and how have we responded? Can writers really change the world?

Literary Activists examines these questions through the lives and actions of some of Australia’s foremost writers. It offers fresh insight into the activism, public-intellectual careers and writings of Judith Wright, Patrick White, Oodgeroo of the tribe of Noonuccal, Les Murray, Helen Garner, David Malouf and Tim Winton. It explores the intimate connection between writers and activism and asks what this reveals about the future of Australian literature.


Brigid Rooney

Brigid Rooney completed her PhD at Macquarie University before taking up an Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Sydney. She has published many essays on Christina Stead and on her own current research in Australian literary and cultural studies journals. She now teaches Australian Studies at the University of Sydney, and pursues her research interests in contemporary Australian literature and literary studies.