Impact of the Modern

Vernacular Modernities in Australia 1870s–1960s

Edited by Robert Dixon and Veronica Kelly

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Format: paperback
332 pages
ISBN: 9781920898892

Publication: 01 Nov 2008

Publisher: Sydney University Press

Australian and international modernity from the late 19th to the mid-20th century inspires research in many fields of cultural endeavour: architecture, fine arts, design, cinema, theatre, and music; in urban studies, literary history and Aboriginal studies. Impact of the Modern brings together examples of this new interdisciplinary work on modern Australian culture by 21 leading scholars. Their writings reveal an original account of 'modernising' Australia as dynamic and creative in many art forms, and interactively linked with international processes and ideas.

The essays in Impact of the Modern were presented as papers at the conference, 'Australian Vernacular Modernities', convened by the editors at the University of Queensland in 2006. Plenary papers by Jill Julius Matthews and Angela Woollacott signal the book's focus on the erotic and gendered spaces, and on popular aspects of modernity. They provide the central focus of the material, through such vital and dynamic categories as the 'modern', the 'erotic' and the 'primitive'. As essential components of the historical processes of innovation and modernisation, these central questions of gender and public sociality are taken up in diverse ways in the other chapters, forming a varied and exciting study of a range of creative Australian engagements with modern international life and popular culture.

Robert Dixon is professor of Australian literature at the University of Sydney. He is a general editor in Sydney University Press’ Sydney Studies in Australian Literature series.

Veronica Kelly is professor emerita in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

List of figures
Australian vernacular modernities: people, sites and practices
Robert Dixon and Veronica Kelly

Section 1: erotic, exotic and primitive
1. Erotic modernities
Jill Julius Matthews
2. Art dance, burlesque and body culture: negotiating interwar modernities
Amanda Card
3. Letters from Tangiers: the creative partnership between Elsie and Hilda Rix in Morocco
Jeanette Hoorn
4. Modernity denied: the case of Harold Blair’s 1956 EP, Australian Aboriginal Songs
Bill Casey
5. Jedda, Négritude and the modernist impulse in Australian film
Barbara Creed

Section 2: impresarios, artists and celebrities
6. Vulgar art: issues of genre and modernity in the reception of the flower paintings of Ellis Rowan
Kerry Heckenberg
7. ‘Written to tickle the ears of the groundings in garden cities’: the aesthetic of modernity – Vance and Nettie Palmer and the New Age
Deborah Jordan
8. Ambitious angel: Jean Batten and the performance of gender in a man’s country
Anne Collett
9. Making it accessible: Mary Alice Evatt and Australian modernist art
Melissa Boyde
10. Pioneering cultural exchange: two international exhibitions 1931–1933, initiated by Mary Cecil Allen and Alleyne ‘Clarice’ Zander
Eileen Chanin
11. Bryan Robertson, abstract expressionism and late Modernism in ‘Recent Australian Painting’ (1961)
Simon Pierse

Section 3: cosmopolitanism and international performer networks
12. The Davenport brothers down under: theatre, belief and modernity in 1870s Australia
Melissa Bellanta
13. London, New York and Hollywood: three ‘Australians’ on the world stage
Angela Woollacott
14. Cosmopolitans at home: Judith Anderson and the American aspirations of J.C. Williamson Stock Company members, 1897–1918
Desley Deacon
15. Chasing modernity: an expatriate star’s return ‘home’
Fiona Gregory

Section 4: sites of leisure, pleasure and consumption
16. Exhibiting ourselves: myth-making and modernity at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition
Ailsa McPherson
17. The Turkish bath in Australia: an exotic eastern delight or a home-grown utility
Susan Aykut
18. The circus and the amusement park: a site of contestation near Princes Bridge, Melbourne
Gillian Arrighi
19. Pools and the modernising of the landscape
Hannah Lewi


' ... this is a volume which any Australianist scholar interested in cultural history, and its popular manifestations, can dip into. Much new knowledge is demonstrated here as well as new discoveries about old traditions and the place of Australia within the climate of international modernist debate in the period 1870 to 1960.'
Victor Emeljanow   Australasian Drama Studies

' ... this impressive volume is a must for researchers interested in all aspects of modernism and modernity, from an Australian perspective and beyond.'
Joanne Tompkins   Contemporary Theatre Review

'Impact of the Modern provides a series of entry points into "the modern" in an Australian context and as such, is a welcome complement to recent volumes on the immediate subject while offering much to the wider field of modernist studies.'
Tanya Dalziell   Modernism/Modernity

'The collection is engagingly interdisciplinary and makes a convincing case for prosopography as a useful tool for understanding both modernism and a wide range of performances in Australia in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.'
Liz Schafer   New Theatre Quarterly

Format: paperback
Size: 210 × 148 × 18 mm
332 pages
ISBN: 9781920898892
Publication: 01 Nov 2008