Melancholy in Australian Literature

Subject 106-454 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: 2 contact hours/week, 8 addtional hours/week

Usually admission to the postgraduate certificate, diploma or fourth year honours in English or creative writing.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Jennifer Rutherford


Jennifer Rutherford

Subject Overview:

This subject will explore melancholy in Australian literature and its relation to contemporary cultural and political formations. Students will read contemporary writers who express the tedium-vitae of late modernity, (eg. Houellebecq, Sebald) and traditional and contemporary Australian texts, and engage with a variety of theoretical works on melancholy drawn from the philosophical, poetic, visual and medico-psychoanalytic tradition. Questions to be considered include: Why did melancholy emerge as a dominant trope in colonial literature? How was melancholy projected onto the 'landscape' and what were the implications of this for emerging patterns of subjectivity, affectivity and intimacy? Is melancholy gendered and how does this manifest in Australian literary representations of suffering? Is there a relation between melancholia, Australian linguistic patterns and the incorporation and encrypting of cultural memory? Has the liquidity of late modernity accelerated the melancholic state of contemporary Australia? Students completing this subject will develop an understanding of contemporary theoretical accounts of melancholy and develop the conceptual and theoretical skills to situate and analyse literary melancholy in relation to the social and cultural forms and forces that contribute to the deepening and acceleration of melancholy in late modernity.

  • have an understanding of traditional and contemporary interpretations of melancholy;
  • a textual knowledge of melancholy in Australian literature;
  • should be able to apply this knowledge in the analysis and interpretation of prescribed texts;
  • be able to demonstrate a familiarity with debates over the relationship between melancholy and social and political formations.

An essay of 5,000 words worth 100%, due at the end of semester.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

  • Diary of a Bad Year (Coetzee)
  • His Natural Life (M Clarke)
  • Tourmaline (R Stowe)
  • The Tree of Man (P White)
  • The Rings of Saturn (W.G Sebald)
  • The Garden Book (B Castro)
  • The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (H.H Richardson)
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • have advanced research and analytic skills;

  • have the ability to communicate oral and written arguments and ideas effectively;

  • have advanced theoretical knowledge in a field of inquiry.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English

Download PDF version.