Is Australian romance an oxymoron? It has been long thought so; not for us Don Juan or Don Quixote but Ned Kelly and Tom Collins. Even when romance rears its alluring head in Australian fiction, as with Harry’s wooing of Sybilla in My Brilliant Career, it is often quashed as a distraction or delusion. More recently, celebrated texts of their times such as Puberty Blues (1979), Oscar and Lucinda (1988), Praise (1992) have confirmed the view that romance is difficult in Australia – and in Australian fiction.
If we have prided ourselves on taking the steely-eyed view without the filter of rose-coloured glasses, we may also have been looking in the wrong places for romance. This issue of Southerly engages with the question of Australian romance and presents work that promises to make us re-think the question, right down to our unromantic souls. This issue includes essays on romance writers, a real-life spiritualist romance between two women, a new “Byronic” reading of Gwen Harwood, and a male colonial romance from 1866, which is full of surprises.
This issue also includes the 2010 Blaiklock lecture, this year given by Lyn McCredden on Barbara Hanrahan, which weaves a compelling and poetic case for the connection between the sacred and the erotic in Hanrahan’s work. Much of the fiction and poetry also connects to the theme of romance and love, all of it is exciting and includes new works by established writes such as Jill Jones, Cath Kenneally, Ouyang Yu, ?.O., and Jessica White as well as writers who will be new to the reader – and a revelation. The issue also contains reviews on the theme and with broader reach.