A Career in Writing: Judah Waten and the Cultural Politics of a Literary Career

Michael Wilding, David Carter, Leigh Dale
1999 Labour History  
This thesis examines the literary career of Judah Waten in order to focus on a series of issues in Australian cultural history and theory. The concept of the career is theorised as a means of bringing together the textual and institutional dimensions of writing and being a writer in a specific cultural economy. The guiding question of the argument which re-emerges in different ways in each chapter is: in what ways was it possible to write and to be a writer in a given time and place? Waten's
more » ... eer as a Russian-born, Jewish, Australian nationalist, communist and realist writer across the middle years of this century is, for the purposes of the argument, at once usefully exemplary and usefully marginal in relation to the literary establishment. His texts provide the central focus for individual chapters; at the same time each chapter considers a specific historical moment and a specific set of issues for Australian cultural history, and is to this extent self-contained. Recent work in narrative theory, literary sociology and Australian literary and cultural studies is brought together to revise accepted readings of Waten's texts and career, and to address significant absences or problems in Australian cultural history. The sequence of issues shaping Waten's career in writing is argued in terms of the following conjunctions of theoretical and historical categories: proletarianism, modernity and theories of the avant-garde; the "migrant" writer and minority literatures; realism, political purpose and narrative self-situation; communism, nationalism and literary practice in the cold war; utopianism and the "literary witness" narrative of the Soviet Union; assimilationism, multicultural theory and the "non-Anglo-Celtic" writer; theories of autobiographical writing, and autobiography in Waten's career. The purpose of the thesis is not to discover a single key to Waten's writing across the oeuvre but rather to plot the specific occasions of this writing in the context of the structure of a career and the cultural institutions within which it was formed.
doi:10.2307/27516655 fatcat:5t6tyifdbzdxfi3bwhldtqrx24