Australasian-Pacific Travel in the Middlebrow Imagination 1925-1950
Advanced Research Seminar, 28-29 November 2013
The Cairns Institute
James Cook University Building D3, Room 003

Thursday 28 November 2013

12:30 Shuttle from Blue Lagoon Resort, Trinity Beach to JCU Cairns Institute

1:00-1:15 ARRIVAL & COFFEE

1:15-1:30 Welcome and Introductions Victoria Kuttainen & Susann Liebich

1:30-3:00 SESSION 1

Australian Newspapers and Magazine Culture
David Carter, ‘Literary, But Not Too Literary; Joyous, But Not Jazzy’: Triad Magazine, Modernity and the Middlebrow
Roger Osborne, ‘In The Post: Australian Writers and the Saturday Evening Post, 1945-1961’
Mitchell Rolls, ‘Composing Country: Walkabout magazine (1934-1978) and Travelling Home Troubles’


3:30-5:00 SESSION 2

Space, Nation and Middlebrow Writing
Adam Gall, ‘Ernestine Hill’s My Love Must Wait: the figurative work of circumnavigation and the middlebrow constitution of national space’
Anna Johnston, ‘Becoming “Pacific-minded”: Australian Middlebrow Writers in the 1940s’
Claire Brennan, ‘Shooting the Australian Adventure: Crocodile hunting in popular imagination’

5.30 Shuttle from JCU Cairns Institute to Blue Lagoon Resort, Trinity Beach

7:00 DINNER @ L’Unico Trattoria, Trinity Beach

Friday 29 November 2013

9.00 Shuttle from Blue Lagoon Resort, Trinity Beach to JCU Cairns Institute

9:30-11:00 SESSION 3

Travellers – Real and Imagined
Frances Steel, ‘“A water consciousness takes possession of you”: Trans-Pacific Ocean Liners, Shipping Routes and Maritime Imperialism’
Russell McGregor, ‘Excursions through Emptiness: Travel Writing on Tropical Australia, 1920-1950’
Nicholas Halter, ‘Steaming Narratives: Adventure, Romance, Science, and Missionary Discourses in the Interwar Imaginary of the Pacific’

11:00-11:30 MORNING TEA

11:30-1:00 SESSION 4
Women Travellers – Real and Imagined
Anne Rees, ‘Ellis Island in the Pacific: Entering America in Hawai’i, 1930s-1950s’
Sarah Gallety, ‘The Spectacular Travelling Woman: Canadian and Australian Visions of Women, Modernity, and Mobility Between the Wars’
Liz Conor, ‘The “Outdoor Girl” and the Camp “Lubra”: mobility and racialised types in interwar print’

1:00-2:00 LUNCH

2:00-3:30 SESSION 5
Tropical Imagery and Imaginations
Max Quanchi, ‘Adding published photography to middlebrow: the visual reading of the Pacific’
Stephen Torre, ‘The Tropical Island in the Popular Imagination: Paradise or Penitentiary?’
Celmara Pocock, ‘Imagining Paradise, Discovering Science: Tourism and Science at the Great Barrier Reef’


Discussion of magazines for inclusion in the project
Discussion of publication plans


6:00 Shuttle from JCU Cairns Institute to Blue Lagoon Resort, Trinity Beach

Abstracts (in alphabetical order):

Claire Brennan
, ‘Shooting the Australian Adventure: Crocodile hunting in popular imagination’

Hunting in Australia’s tropical north has been the stuff of adventure stories for over a century. The dangerous game available in northern Australia has featured in newspaper articles, magazine articles, films, and books. Both crocodile and buffalo have provided hunters with charismatic prey, and armchair hunters with vicarious thrills. This paper will examine popular accounts of hunting in northern Australia, with a particular focus on the postwar period.

After the Second World War northern Australia became more accessible due to improving road and air links. Large animals could also be killed more reliably as more powerful rifles became widely available. As a result crocodile hunting became popular enough to severely impact on crocodile populations. This paper will examine the way in which such hunting was reported and publicized. It will argue that the effectiveness of different types of hunters in collecting crocodile skins was in many ways inversely proportional to the amount of publicity they received.

David Carter, ‘“Literary, But Not Too Literary; Joyous, But Not Jazzy”: Triad Magazine (1915-1927), Modernity and the Middlebrow’

This paper will examine the responses of the editors of the Sydney Triad magazine to shifts in the local and international cultural field across the 1920s. Following the early death of its Sydney editor and guiding spirit Frank Morton in 1923, Triad’s new editors attempted successively to reinvent the magazine as adequate to its present circumstances—in particular to the presence of artistic modernism and new forms of popular modernity (in the cinema, best-selling fiction etc). Triad attempted—repeatedly—to define a position ‘in between’ or ‘outside’ the hierarchy of cultures which came to expressed in the ‘literary physiognomy’ of highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow. During this time, the Triad also maintained a New Zealand edition (the magazine had been founded in New Zealand in 1893) and it indicates the last stages of a once-thriving trans-Tasman print culture.

Liz Conor, ‘The ‘Outdoor Girl’ and the Camp ‘Lubra’: mobility and racialised types in interwar print’

The mobility of the Modern Girl was a corollary of her whiteness. Though regimented, appropriated by market discourse and highly proscribed the movement of the Modern Girl was marked by modern ideals of self-mastery , advancement but also leisure. The ‘fast’ Flapper type was an alliteration of unbuttoned boots flapping as young women walked. The Flapper’s ‘coltish’ movements through city streets typed her within urban physiognamies along with the ‘Outdoor Girl’ and ‘Mannequin Vivant. All were types of the Modern Girl whose comportment was a key indicator of their gendered identities and whiteness.

Aboriginal women’s movement was conversely represented through a schematics of displacement, dispersal and removal. Nomadism was said to be purposeless movement within unmarked, unterritorialised boundaries. Australian Aborigines had stagnated as ‘living fossils’ of Palaeolithic man. In traditional life Aboriginal women were said to be downtrodden by their men and in print culture, they were largely seated by the camp fire and were attributed with movement only as beasts of burden, weighed down by children and primitive camp necessities.
This paper is interested to explore how pathways, comportment and other modalities of mobility assigned racial types within interwar Australian print culture.

Adam Gall, ‘Ernestine Hill’s My Love Must Wait: the figurative work of circumnavigation and the middlebrow constitution of national space’

Ernestine Hill’s biographical novel of the life of Matthew Flinders, My Love Must Wait (1941), was one of the author’s most successful and influential works. In this paper I will consider the relationship between the text and Hill’s other travel and historical writing from the 1930s to the 1950s. I will outline the thematic and stylistic continuities and discontinuities among her works, as well as how this text might be placed in recent attempts to map an Australian middlebrow. I will then consider how Hill’s thematic concerns and her address to the cultural (and demographic) centres of Australia from, and on behalf of, the new nation’s limits, work to produce quite different effects to other (also arguably middlebrow) Australian historical fiction of the period. The ‘worlding’ of Australia in Hill’s text, which positions national space both in and beyond the Australasia-Pacific, can be understood in terms of circumnavigation as a ‘nation-making’ activity (a figure which is also adopted in her travel writing). I will close by considering how this ‘worlding’ can be distinguished from that conducted in Eleanor Dark’s historical novel of the same period, The Timeless Land (1941).

Sarah Gallety
, ‘The Spectacular Travelling Woman: Canadian and Australian Visions of Women, Modernity, and Mobility Between the Wars’

In The Spectacular Modern Woman, Liz Connor argues that technologies of image production in the early twentieth century led to the circulation of pictures of the New Woman that were both freeing and confining. These images, both specious and spectacular, enabled new subject positions for modern women, even as these positions objectified women and subjected them to the policing gaze of ocularcentric culture. Conor examines the spectacle of the new woman as a set piece positioned in several generic scenes: the metropolitan scene, the cinematic scene, commodity scene, the beauty contestant in the photographic scene, the “primitive” woman in the late colonial scene, and the flapper in the heterosexual leisure scene. Yet the interwar period also circulated spectacular images of the travelling woman. Amelia Earhart became America’s sweetheart in this scene, but images of Australian and Canadian travelling women also splashed spectacularly across the pages of mainstream periodicals there in the interwar period.

Using Chatelaine and The Australian Woman’s Mirror, this paper compares and contrasts Canadian and Australian portrayals of the spectacular travelling woman of the interwar years to examine the way she becomes a screen for anxieties and fantasies of these two national imaginaries. In examining these considerations, this paper takes up Victoria Kuttainen’s call (2013) for a renewal of Canadian-Australian comparative literary scholarship focused by the material exigencies of periodical print scholarship. It also takes up Kuttainen’s point that most scholarship on the middlebrow imagination has focused on Britain or America, while Canada and Australia remain critically under-examined in these terms.

Nicholas Halter
, ‘Steaming Narratives: Adventure, Romance, Science, and Missionary Discourses in the Interwar Imaginary of the Pacific’

By the 1930s, increasing numbers of Australians were attracted to the Pacific Islands by steamship companies marketing exotic tourist destinations or stopovers on the way to Europe and the Americas. Travel was more luxurious, more frequent, more affordable, and Australian interests in the Pacific Islands (in trade, business and tourism) were well established. The growth of the Australian publishing industry since the 1900s assisted Australian readers in learning about the Pacific Islands, via travel magazines, travelogues, and guidebooks. The popular writings of Louis Becke and Beatrice Grimshaw portrayed the Pacific as simultaneously safe and dangerous, comfortable and challenging, known and unknown.
The major steamship routes through Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and Hawaii left the islands of Melanesia relatively neglected by the common tourist. This is in spite of their close proximity to Australia and regular steamship routes offered by Burns Philp Company. In this paper I will explore Australian travel writing about the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides during the 1920s and 30s. These isolated, rugged and purportedly savage islands attracted readers seeking adventure and mystery distinct from the overly familiar accounts of Polynesia. Yet they were also fertile locations for missionary endeavours and scientific research, and the Islanders were convenient subjects to test Australian racial theories about the progress and civilisation of primitive man. I argue that the Australian middlebrow imagination was shaped by a body of travel literature about these islands generated by tourists, adventurers, scientists and missionaries that borrowed and blended multiple discourses.

Anna Johnston
, ‘Becoming “Pacific-minded”: Australian Middlebrow Writers in the 1940s

Writing was the most important war-work Ernestine Hill could do, her friends urged her: she must “rush my best and most arresting articles on this country to America to make them conscious of what a loss we’d be. … We must call Americans here” (Hill pers. comm. to Coy Bateson 1942). Frank Clune too saw World War II marking a turning point in Australia’s consciousness: “the biggest war in history made us ‘Pacific-minded’” (Clune, Pacific Parade 1945). This paper examines writers such as Clune and Hill to reveal how Australian writing operated outside national borders, offering authors careers that expanded across very different readerships, publishing outlets, and geographic regions. Middlebrow intellectuals, texts, and institutions were crucial in educating Americans about their evolving mid-century relationships with Asia, Christina Klein argues (Cold-War Orientalism 2003); in Australia, magazines such as Walkabout offered writers a platform to inculcate affective alliances between Australians and the Pacific region. The sentimental mode of “middle-brow personalism” (Janice Radway A Feeling for Books 1997) enabled writers to engage their readers in wider geopolitical affairs. An astute manager of her literary career, Hill announced in 1943: “There never was such a year in books in Australia, particularly in Australian books. The Americans order 80,000 at a time for camp libraries.” Hill was delighted to see American editions of her books “making Australia” overseas (Hill to Bateson 15 Jan. 1943): this paper examines the multiple ways in which such writers and their books “made Australia” during this period.

Russell McGregor
, ‘Excursions through Emptiness: Travel Writing on Tropical Australia, 1920-1950’

The years 1920 to 1950 were a period of heightened anxiety among Australians about the ‘empty north’. The First World War followed by the experimental internationalism of the League of Nations, the Great Depression, the rising assertiveness of East Asia and the culminating disaster of the Second World War, all fed into misgivings about Australia’s vast tropical estate being left unpeopled and undeveloped. The same decades also witnessed an efflorescence of travel literature on northern Australia as cars and aeroplanes made this part of the continent increasingly accessible. All these travel writers commented, explicitly or implicitly, on the burning contemporary questions of how, and to what extent, the north could be developed. This paper explores representations of northern Australia and northern development in a wide range of travel writings from the period 1920 to 1950, with particular attentiveness to how understandings of Australia’s tropical environments shifted over these years. I shall also consider how Aboriginal people could be represented as inhabitants of an ‘empty’ land. Authors examined range from professional writers such as Ion Idriess and Ernestine Hill, to scientists like Francis Ratcliffe and CT Madigan (though scientists, their travel writings were decidedly ‘middlebrow’), to politicians such as Thomas Paterson and his private secretary Robert Rowe.

Roger Osborne
, ‘In The Post: Australian Writers and the Saturday Evening Post, 1945-1961’

With a circulation that exceeded a million copies, and a readership that multiplied exponentially beyond that, America’s Saturday Evening Post provided writers with an extraordinary readership. This is even more remarkable for Australian writers who could never expect such exposure within their own country. But, for a handful of Australian writers in the years during and after the Second World War, the Saturday Evening Post offered a place for their short fiction to be published, and provided a launching pad for the acceptance of their novels by American publishers. This paper explores the early careers of Jon Cleary and Olaf Ruhen, and considers the important role that the Saturday Evening Post had in establishing their American careers. It will also examine Cleary’s stories set in war-time Sydney and Ruhen’s South Pacific fiction in relation to other fiction by Australian writers such as Louis Becke, Max Murray, and Dorothy Cottrell. This will reveal images of Australia and the South Pacific delivered to millions of Americans in the post-war period, and go some way to a further understanding Australian and American relations at this time.

Celmara Pocock, ‘Imagining Paradise, Discovering Science: Tourism and Science at the Great Barrier Reef’

The wonders of the Great Barrier Reef described in popular and accessible publications like National Geographic and Walkabout Magazine arguably underpin the significance of the region today. Holidaymakers in the 1920s and 1930s were inspired by fictional tropical island adventures, and Reef islands promised them the possibility of finding paradise on earth (Pocock 2006). But the Reef also offered visitors the opportunity to engage in scientific discovery. Early expeditions to the Reef were more about learning, and less about luxurious relaxation. While romantic literature drove visitors to imagine a Pacific idyll, writing from and about the islands gave the reading public an understanding of marine life, life sciences and natural history. Early scientific discovery was shared directly with holidaymakers, and brought into homes around Australia (and elsewhere in the world) through the popular writings of holidaymakers, journalists, authors and scientists.

Scientist Maurice Yonge published a popular book A Year on the Great Barrier Reef that provided an account of the British Expedition to Low Isles in 1928-29. His is an account of science, while journalist EJ Banfield shared his life on Dunk Island with avid readers in Confessions of a Beachcomber. Banfield’s writing details the island flora and fauna, and Yonge describes marine life. Together with popular magazine articles, this body of literature contributed to an accessible natural history of the Great Barrier Reef. In contrast with dry and technical language of scientific publications, such popular accounts brought a scientific knowledge and appreciation of the Reef to the middlebrow. They reflect the state of scientific knowledge at the time, and some outdated knowledge became mythologised. Nevertheless public engagement with this earlier scientific worldview continues to play a significant role in how the region is celebrated in the present.

Max Quanchi, ‘Adding published photography to middlebrow: the visual reading of the Pacific’

Middlebrow is usually defined as reading, writing and literature. This paper argues that it was the visual component that made middlebrow magazines, illustrated newspapers and serial encyclopaedia so visible in the public domain. For the Pacific Islands, it was not so much what was read, as what was seen. Australian construction and popular imagination of the Pacific was reinforced every weekend or month when the next heavily illustrated story on the Pacific appeared in the Sydney Mail, The Queenslander, People of all Nations or Walkabout. This was intelligent entertainment that was neither highbrow nor popular, but might be argued to be both, as well as middlebrow. This paper fills a gap in the linked study of travel, literature and cultural imagery.

Anne Rees, ‘Ellis Island in the Pacific: Entering America in Hawai’i, 1930s-1950s’

During the mid-twentieth century, when Britain was still the default destination for antipodeans venturing abroad, hundreds of Australian women chose instead to cross the Pacific in quest of adventure and career opportunities in America. This paper examines the experience of these little-known travellers during the moment of their arrival in the United States, which occurred long before reaching the American mainland. Hawai’i invariably served as the legal point of entry into America, as ships and later aeroplanes stopped at Honolulu on the journey between Sydney and San Francisco. During these brief visits, trans-Pacific travellers developed first impressions of American culture – and endured American immigration procedures – while also soaking up the pleasures of a tropical island. I suggest that Australian women were often unsettled to discover that Hawai’i appeared to be both an American territory and a Pacific paradise, for this hybrid identity represented the merging of the modern and the primitive, the westernised and the exotic, white and non-white – binaries strictly policed in white Australia. Yet, while the cosmopolitanism encountered in Hawai’i may have initially seemed anomalous, it proved instead to be a harbinger of the racial diversity these travellers were to experience throughout the States. The encounter with Hawai’i served to foreshadow the discovery that America was not the older sibling of the proudly British Australian nation, but the fruit of quite different lineages altogether.

Mitchell Rolls
, ‘Composing Country: Walkabout magazine (1934-1978) and Travelling Home Troubles’

The Australian geographical magazine Walkabout proclaimed in its first issue ‘to be on an educational crusade ’ that would render familiar to city audiences Australia’s rural and remote regions, the south Pacific and New Zealand. Pursuing this objective with more gentle modesty than implied in the martial diction of a crusade, it proved moderately successful. In the words of the historian Alec Bolton, Walkabout ‘as much as anything else, discovered outback Australia to the popular imagination.’ Actual and vicarious travel—described in an early editorial as ‘a university of experience’ —was posited as instrumental to this discovery. To this end accounts of the travels and travails of explorers were included, as were those of Australia’s mid-century popular writers. Plant was purchased to facilitate highly organised ‘geographic’ expeditions. However, as many have argued, equipping settler imaginations to better know their country is not politically naïve; aiding settlers’ emotional possession of the continent, also facilitated (and imagined) the psychic, emotional and actual dispossession of the Aborigines. In some critiques Walkabout is ascribed a pivotal role in these endeavours. But to render Walkabout down to the residue that permits this reading is to ignore all that contradicts and to assemble only that which abets. Without arguing that Walkabout is necessarily innocent, this paper finds the magazine more sanguine than ideologically zealous.

Frances Steel
, ‘“A water consciousness takes possession of you”: Ocean liners, shipping routes and maritime imperialism in some published narratives of trans-Pacific travel

The Pacific was the last ocean-basin arena to be ‘conquered’ by timetabled steamship services. By the interwar years three routes linked Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, touching at key strategic ports along the way. In this paper I explore some of the connections between transoceanic mobility, shipboard cultures and popular meanings generated about the Pacific following the mass commercialisation of sea travel. I draw specifically on a selection of overlooked published travel narratives from both ‘sides’ of the Pacific, including Sydney Greenbie, The Pacific Triangle (1921), Frank Coffee, Forty Years on the Pacific (1925), S.H Palmer, Across the Pacific (1926) and Marjorie Appleton, East of Singapore (1942). Key questions include: How did each author position the ocean liner and the specific route they followed across the Pacific? To what extent were these significant ‘spaces’ of cross-cultural and transnational encounter? Given the commercial maritime rivalry of Britain and America in this period, how did this influence and structure these narratives and the authors’ respective attitudes towards the place of the Pacific in a globalising world?

Stephen Torre
, ‘The Tropical Island in the Popular Imagination: Paradise or Penitentiary?’

An enduring trope in the corpus of writing about islands is the contradictory ways in which they may be mapped in the imaginary. Such complexities can be found in writing about the Pacific islands of tropical Australia. Journalist E.J.Banfield set the tone for accounts of tropic islands as paradises in his several books including My Tropic Isle (1911) in which he said: “…this unkempt, unrestrained garden where the centuries gaze upon perpetual summer …. set in the fountain of time-defying youth …. No ill or sour vapours contaminate its breath. It typifies all that is tranquil, quiet, easeful, dreamlike, for it is the, Isle of Dreams.” Banfield popularized the figure of the ‘beachcomber’, the island version of the flâneur. But by the time Jean Devanny wrote By Tropic Sea and Jungle: Adventures in North Queensland (1944), she advised (in Chapter IV, “Debunking Dunk”): “Those who revere the beachcomber and like clean and wholesome sea-borne things should keep away from Dunk”. In between those extremes the tropical island imaginary is constructed in many diverse ways in travel writing, memoir, fiction and poetry. In his collection of stories, Little Known of These Waters (1945) R.S.Porteous presents islands as potential scenes of shipwreck, around which mariners must chart a careful course. In bad weather their position is hard to fix, and they seem to move around like the ship-smashing Wandering Rocks of the Odyssey. Elsewhere, islands promise hidden treasure, the spoils of salvage, or refuge when sheltering from cyclones. Other writers for popular magazines, including Randolph Bedford, centred their narratives on the struggle for survival of the victims of shipwreck, presenting the contrary fates of Crusoe-like adaptation to the environment, or descent into despair and madness against a perceived hostility in nature. In contrast, William Hatfield’s Barrier Reef Days (1948) (based on the author’s holiday on Green Island) is a children’s adventure story with many rich perspectives on nature and the indigenous cultures of tropical islands, revelled in by the children, but treated with Calibanic circumspection in the frequent interjections of a frantic mother, as in the following declamation on the ‘morals’ of the native islanders: “‘I’ve said my children were growing up savages on this island,’ said Mother with pursed lips, ‘and now I know why. There should be and Act of Parliament abolishing you!’”

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