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 participants: andrew mccann
 Andrew McCann
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of English
University of Melbourne

Research Projects
ARC Discovery project, 2002-2004: "Marcus Clarke's Bohemia: Literature, Popular Culture and Urban Experience in Colonial Melbourne."

This study will contextualise Marcus Clarke's career in terms of the material culture of nineteenth-century Melbourne, producing the first complete and theoretically informed monograph on Australia's most important colonial prose writer. Clarke's self-conscious bohemianism highlighted the increasingly commercialised nature of nineteenth-century writing, the centrality of mass entertainment to urban life, the circulation of cultural capital between Europe and Australia, and the emergence of Australian literary nationalism in a larger imperial context. His career is thus uniquely positioned to elucidate the hitherto under-explored but pivotal relationship between literature and commodified popular culture in the specific context of an Australian settler-colony.
My work on British Romanticism examines the relationship between Romantic aesthetics, commodity culture and class conflict in the wake of the French Revolution. This work integrates a range of theoretical concepts (aesthetic autonomy, commodification, and bourgeois and proletarian public spheres) into the discussion of cultural-historical material in a way that establishes the necessary reciprocity of theory and history. Aspects of this work, especially those exploring the relationship between the aesthetic and commodified popular culture, have nourished my more recent research on literature and consumerism in nineteenth-century Melbourne. Over the last five years I developed this work into discussions of Australian material, exploring the relationship between aesthetics and the commodity form, publishing four journal essays on aspects of Marcus Clarke's work and one on the arcades of nineteenth-century Melbourne which is also related to the general aims of this project. These essays are significant to Australian literary studies in that they bring work in critical theory to bear on an Australian context, drawing upon the writing of Walter Benjamin, Theodore Adorno and Sigfried Kracauer to move beyond solely author- or genre- based approaches and reveal hitherto little explored relationships between literature and commodity culture in an Australian context. The recent selection of my 1996 essay, "Marcus Clarke and the Society of the Spectacle; Reflections on Commodity-Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne," for inclusion in a reader of Australian literary criticism (forthcoming, University of Queensland Press) indicates a recognition of the importance of this work.

Cultural Politics in the 1790s: Literature, Radicalism and the Public Sphere, London, Macmillan Press, 1999.

ed. Writing the Everyday: Australian Literature and the Limits of Suburbia, a special issue of Australian Literary Studies, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1998.

Published Articles

'The Savage Metropolis: Animism, Aesthetics and the Pleasures of a Vanished Race', Textual Practice, 17:2 (2003): 317-333.

'Textual Phantasmagoria: Light Literature and the Colonial Uncanny', Australian Literary Studies, 21:2 (October 2003): 137-150.

'Bohemia and the Dream-Life of the Colonial City', Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, vol. 1 (2002): 4-18.

'Romanticism, Nationalism and the Mythology of the Popular in William Lane's The Workingman's Paradise', Journal of Australian Studies, 70 (2001): 1-12.

'Humanism After Auschwitz: Reflections on Jean Améry's Freitod', Angelaki, vol 6, no. 3. (December 2001): 71-81.

'Romantic Self-Fashioning: John Thelwall and the Science of Elocution', Studies in Romanticism, vol. 40, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 215-232.

'Colonial Gothic: Morbid Anatomy, Commodification and Critique in The Mystery of Major Molineux', Australian literary Studies, vol. 19, no. 4 (2000); 399-412.

'Marcus Clarke, Gustave Doré and the Secret of the Popular', in Alison Bartlett, Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee (eds.), Australian Literature and the Public Sphere, Toowoomba: Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 1999: 101-109.

'Marcus Clarke and the Gothic Commodity', Southern Review, vol.31., no. 3 (1998); 282-296.

'Politico-Sentimentality: John Thelwall, Literary Production, and the Critique of Capital in the 1790s', Romanticism vol. 3, no. 1 (1997); 35-52.

'Conjugal Love and the Enlightenment Subject: the Colonial Context of Non-Identity in Maria Edgeworth's Belinda', Novel: a Forum vol. 30, no. 1 (Fall 1996); 56-77.

'Marcus Clarke and the Society of the Spectacle: Reflections on Writing and Commodity Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne', Australian Literary Studies vol. 17, no. 3 (May 1996); 222-234.


Marcus Clarke's Bohemia: Literature and Modernity in Colonial Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne University Publishing, forthcoming 2004.
My recent research stemming from the ARC Discovery Grant is now recognised as being amongst the most significant recent scholarship on Clarke and his cultural context. Recognition of the importance of this body of work is evident in the 2001 republication of my 1996 essay on Clarke as "Writing and Commodity Capitalism," in Delys Bird, Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee (eds.) Authority and Influence: Australian Literary Criticism 1950-2000 (St Lucia:, University of Queensland Press, 2001), an anthology of influential and representative pieces of Australian literary criticism; an invitation to write a new introduction for the recent Angus and Robertson reissue of His Natural Life (published in 2002), and regular citation of on Clarke and Bohemia by leading critics like Veronica Kelly and Ian Henderson. The inclusion of an essay in Textual Practice (2003) however, represents a significant broadening of the audience for and the impact of this work. Textual Practice is the leading British journal of the new humanities. Because my work on Clarke seeks to revise the assumptions of critical and cultural theory in the light of the hitherto under-studied adaptation of metropolitan sensibilities in a colonial context, publishing work on colonial Australia in such an important international forum will maximise its influence on the field of literary studies more generally conceived.

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This report has been make possible due to the generous support
of the Australian Research Council, and Curtin University of Technology

Andrew McCann
email: [email protected]
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