Better half-dead than read? The Mezzomorto cases and their implications for literary culture in the 1930s

Goldsmith, Ben (1998) Better half-dead than read? The Mezzomorto cases and their implications for literary culture in the 1930s. In Bartlett, Alison, Dixon, Robert, & Lee, Christopher (Eds.) Australian Literature and the Public Sphere : Refereed Proceedings of the 1998 Conference, Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Toowoomba, Australia, pp. 80-89.


This article focusses on the two libel cases arising from Brian Penton's review of Vivian Crockett's novel Mezzomorto for the Bulletin in 1934, viewing them as points of entry into Australian literary politics in the 1930s, and as windows on to one of the most enduring and interesting feuds in Australian literary culture, that between P.R. 'Inky' Stephensen, self-styled 'Bunyip Critic,' and Brian Penton, arch exponent of 'destructive criticism' and scourge of parochial pretension. The cases are particularly interesting for what they reveal about the evolving positions of two influential figures in Australian writing of the 1930s and 1940s. They also play in to contemporary debates about the state and status of 'literature' in Australia. And while Penton's biographer Patrick Buckridge avers that the cases did not impact on any of the larger contemporary literary issues (meaning censorship and free speech), a case may be made for the significance of the libel actions in the context of attempts to establish an industrial and cultural presence for a diverse range of Australian writing.

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ID Code: 78437
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Brian Penton, Vivian Crockett, PR Stephensen, Mezzomorto, Australian literature, libel
ISBN: 095871214X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) (200502)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 1998 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 05 Nov 2014 23:31
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2014 23:32

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