Literature's value: Analysing the literature of Shirley Hazzard

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Questioning the value of literature is problematic not least because this assumes that it demands justification. As a discipline, aesthetic phenomenon, writing activity or reading experience, literature is integral to our culture of storytelling and sense of belonging. The influence of literature is everywhere – it inspires imagination and creativity, fosters community and provides us with a window into the lives of others. The imaginary worlds of novels in particular enable one to inhabit social and political spheres that go beyond the everyday realm of the self. Shirley Hazzard’s novel, The Transit of Venus (1980), provides remarkable evidence of literature’s generosity in this regard. Hazzard’s adept use of prolepsis enfolds the future into the present, making The Transit of Venus a powerful example of literature’s aesthetic dimension and taking readers beyond themselves and into a space which fosters a deep reflection. The Transit of Venus shows that the value of literature cannot be fathomed, not least because its aesthetic and imaginative potential thwarts quantification by positivistic or economic means.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2022
Event'The Value of Literature': Congress of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Melbourne University, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 01 Dec 202201 Dec 2022


Conference'The Value of Literature'
Abbreviated titleDebating Literature's Value: A one-day symposium
OtherIn recent times the value, or ‘value for money’ of research in Literary Studies has been openly questioned in levels of government and some parts of the media. So too, new modes of data collection and attempts to quantify research quality at individual universities and at national and international levels, are requiring those doing research into literature to carefully consider where they publish and the topics of research they address if they continue to publish or apply for grants at all. While Australia continues to produce works of literature of a high level and the status of creative writing itself is less openly questioned, the role and importance of literary scholarship and criticism and the teaching of literature at universities has come under significant pressure in the public sphere. Fewer column inches are available to consider the importance of literature in major news outlets, and far less funding for literary or scholarly journals is available through funding bodies. Literature and deliberation over its value, which so decisively shaped the social networks and intellectual character of the modern public sphere, is now noticeable by its absence.
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