The 2016 Australian Writers’ Week at Peking University

date:2016-04-11 09:51:48 copyfrom:This site

    On Monday 14 March, as part of the annual Australian Writers’ Week in China, Peking University Australian Studies Centre (PKUASC) hosted a seminar held by multi-award winning Australian writers Robert Drewe and Claire Wright. In his introduction to the seminar, PKUASC Director, Professor Liu Shusen noted that this was the 9th Australian Writers’ Week held at PKU and the PKUASC was proud to be a part of these cultural celebrations. He also noted in particular the seminar was a joint project between PKU and the Beijing Foreign Studies University Australian Studies Centre and recognized the attendance of other leaders and students from both Renmin and Tsinghua Australian Studies centers. Moreover, he commended the role that the Australian Embassy had played in the annual Writers’ Week and thanked the attendees from the Embassy, led by Minister-Counselor Mr. Gary Cowan, representing Australian Ambassador to China HE Jan Adams, Counselor of Public Affairs Ms Maree Ringland. Finally, Professor Liu introduced the chair of the seminar the BHP Billiton Chair Professor of Australian Studies at Peking University, Greg McCarthy.
    Professor McCarthy outlined the speakers’ collective writing and their key themes before invited Robert Drewe and Claire Wright to present their talks. Each writer spoke eloquently and passionately about their respective works, both illustrating unique perspectives they offered in challenging popular myths of Australian life and history.

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    Robert Drewe offered a temporal chronology of events challenging the significance of the ‘Bush’ (outback-countryside) for the Australian psyche, whilst detailing the rising prominence of the ‘Beach’ for the Australian collective consciousness. He argued that the coastal representation of modern Australia is more tangible and real, as Australians hold a particular fondness for and enjoy key life events at the beach. This reality was expressed in his recent book, Dr Pacific. Claire Wright proposed a revision of history, challenging the male myths which intrinsically marginalize the role of women in the collective historical memory of Australia. She sought to bring feminist sensitivity to the national story by relating anecdotes of female activism and women as rebels at the forefront of key historical events pivotal to the shaping of the Australian nation and democracy. The subject matter of these two writers was complementary in their confrontation of popular 'imaginings' of Australia, challenging the audience to contemplate whether their own perspectives were truly reflective of Australian life.

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    As a highlight of the seminar, four students at Peking University discussed with Robert Drewe some of the difficult linguistic and cultural points in his short story “Mr. Pacific”, which they translated into Chinese when they attended a course of translation studies taught by Professor Li Yao in the program of Master of Translation and Interpretation (MTI) at Peking University in the last semester. The students were extremely happy with the opportunity of such interaction with the author, which made it possible for them to learn more than reading the text of the short story and understand the story better and deeper.

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    The talks were followed by lively question and answer session, which brought to an end an illuminating look at Australian literature and history to a predominantly young and enthusiastic audience. The seminar was attended by over ninety faculty and students from Peking University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Renmin University ,and Tsinghua University. As an exciting and important achievement of the 2016 Australian Writers’ Week at Peking University, an agreement has been reached by Professor Li Yao and Robert Drewe that Professor Li Yao will translate Robert Drewe’s most critically acclaimed novel into Chinese in the coming year. This will apparently add to the already long list of more than forty Australian books translated by Professor Li Yao.
Copyright © 2012 Centre for Australian Studies, Peking University
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