Helen Garner's Education

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On the 14th of December 1972, a schoolteacher named Helen Garner found herself fired. This essay argues that the terms of Garner’s firing inform the countercultural realism of her first novel Monkey Grip (1977), which is unabashedly fluent in, and indeed narratively yearns for, various forms of the four-letter contraband that got her sacked in the first place. I go on to show how her subsequent hiring by various universities in a succession of writer-in-residencies left related yet distinct marks on her taut minimalist masterpiece, The Children’s Bach (1984). My claim is that Garner’s firing therefore ironically heralds the belated emergence of a period of Australian literary history in which the new diversity of literary fiction cannot be fully comprehended, as Mark McGurl argues in his seminal study of postwar American fiction The Program Era (2009), without close attention ‘to the increasingly intimate relation between literary production and the practices of higher education’ (ix).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian Literary Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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