Time, Tide and History

Eleanor Dark's Fiction

Edited by Fiona Morrison and Brigid Rooney

Regular price $60.00 Sale

Format: paperback
312 pages
ISBN: 9781743329665
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.30722/sup.9781743329665
Publication: 01 Jun 2024
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature
Publisher: Sydney University Press

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Time, Tide and History: Eleanor Dark’s Fiction is the first book-length edited collection of scholarly essays to treat the full span of Eleanor Dark’s fiction, advancing a recent revival of critical and scholarly interest in Dark’s writing.

This volume not only establishes a new view of Dark’s fiction as a whole, but also reflects on the ways in which her fiction speaks to our present moment, in the context of a globally fraught, post-pandemic, Anthropocene era. Above all, the revisiting of Dark’s fiction is mandated by a desire to recognise the ways in which it anticipates vital debates in Australian literary and national culture today, about settler colonialism and its legacies, and with regard to the histories, condition and status of Australia’s First Nations people.

This volume interweaves varied topical themes, from formal debates about modernism, historical realism and melodrama, to questions about modernity’s time and space, about gender and cultural difference, and about the specifics of built and natural environments. Time, Tide and History intentionally loosens the conventions of literary scholarship by including other kinds of work alongside critical and scholarly readings: a written dialogue between two contemporary historians about Dark’s legacy, and a biographical piece on the life and role of Eleanor Dark’s husband, Eric Payten Dark.

Bringing together the interwar fiction’s feminist and modernist dimensions with the historical turn of The Timeless Land trilogy, the essays in Time, Tide and History collectively pursue ethical and political questions while teasing out the distinctive thematic, formal and aesthetic features of Dark’s fiction.

Brigid Rooney is affiliated with the University of Sydney where for several decades she researched and taught Australian literature and Australian studies. She has published widely on twentieth century and contemporary Australian writing and is the author of Literary Activists: Writer-Intellectuals and Australian Public Life (2009) and Suburban Space, the Novel and Australian Modernity (2018).

Fiona Morrison is an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW Sydney, where she has taught and supervised in the areas of postcolonial and world literatures, Australian literature and women’s writing. Her most recent book, Christina Stead and the Matter of America (2019), won the Walter McRae Russell Award in 2021 (ASAL). She is currently working on a book-length study of Henry Handel Richardson.


  • Introduction: Time, Tide and History by Fiona Morrison and Brigid Rooney

Part 1. Modernity and Biography

  • Chapter 1: Navigating Modernity: Eleanor Dark’s Fiction by Melinda J. Cooper
  • Chapter 2: Dr Eric Payten Dark: The Man Behind the Novelist by Margo Beasley

Part 2. Prelude to Christopher

  • Chapter 3. “A Writer by Inheritance”: Dowell O’Reilly’s Literary Influence in Eleanor Dark’s Prelude to Christopher and Waterway by Morgan Burgess
  • Chapter 4. Motherhood and the Maternal Instinct in the Early Fiction of Eleanor Dark by Anne Maxwell
  • Chapter 5. “An Outstanding Study in Abnormal Psychology”: “Pilgrimage” as the Precursor to Prelude to Christopher by Alicia Gaffney
  • Chapter 6. Spiritual Vertigo: Illness, Affect and Modernity in Prelude to Christopher by Jessica Gildersleeve

Part 3. Modernist Ecopoetics, Vitalism and the Pastoral

  • Chapter 7. Landscapes and Mindscapes: The Confluence of Modernism and Ecopoetics in Eleanor Dark’s Return to Coolami by Kathleen Davidson
  • Chapter 8. Connecting Water and Land: Revisiting Nationalism in the Vitalist Aesthetics of Eleanor Dark and Vance Palmer by Victoria Kuttainen
  • Chapter 9. Scales of Relation: Eleanor Dark’s Waterway, the Aquatic Pastoral and Communal Mourning by Fiona Morrison

Part 4. The Timeless Land

  • Chapter 10. In Conversation: The Historical Imagination and Legacy of Eleanor Dark by Tom Griffiths and Grace Karskens
  • Chapter 11. Outlaws of History: Eleanor Dark’s Trilogy of Nation by Philip Mead
  • Chapter 12. Eleanor Dark’s The Timeless Land *Trilogy as Anthropocene Narrative *by Meg Brayshaw
  • Chapter 13. Eleanor Dark’s Chronotopes: Time and Narration in The Timeless Land Trilogy by Michael Griffiths
  • Chapter 14. “A Careless Sort of Benevolence”: Melodrama and Critique in The Timeless Land *Trilogy *by Brigid Rooney

Part 5. Writing in a Time of Crisis

  • Chapter 15. Reading The Little Company in Times of Crisis by Susan Carson



“This rich collection of original contributions from leading scholars underlines the essential place of the novelist Eleanor Dark in any serious account of Australian intellectual and cultural development. A gifted writer and thinker, Dark grappled with the meaning of antipodean modernity, crafted an original interpretation of the nation’s colonial origins, and contributed to defining a modern settler colonial imaginary. This book will be essential reading for anyone interested in her work and its place in Australia’s twentieth-century history.” – Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University


“This valuable collection reassesses Eleanor Dark’s writing of the 1930s and 40s in relation to modernist, feminist, ecological and Australian settler literature. ... a repositioning of her remarkable work that is long overdue.”

Bonnie Kime Scott, San Diego State University


“A brilliant example of innovation in contemporary Australian literary criticism. The canonical Eleanor Dark is released from her ossified and dusty prestige and re-examined and re-presented as a writer of intellectual complexity, contemporary social relevance and beguiling formal and ideological intricacy.”

Gail Jones, Western Sydney University


“These essays sweep us through profound questions at stake in the relationship of humanity to the forces it creates, both destructive and generative. This book introduces a new generation of readers to Dark’s defining works, revealing the models of community and connection she offers us from the Australia of her time.”

Nicole Moore, University of New South Wales


“Eleanor Dark was one of the major novelists of 20th century Australia ... This volume, containing contributions by a great many of the leading voices in Australian literary studies, explores Dark’s entire oeuvre. It shows how the modern century in Australian literature was very much her century.”

Nicholas Birns, New York University


Format: paperback
Size: 254 × 178 mm
312 pages
Copyright: © 2024
ISBN: 9781743329665
Publication: 01 Jun 2024
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature