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Critical Failure: Books

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As book pages in capital city broadsheets lose real estate to real estate pages, Hilary McPhee, Rebecca Starford, Gideon Haigh and Peter Craven ask what’s wrong with literary criticism in Australia. Are our editors up to scratch? Are critics being paid enough and given editorial scope to write with the depth and insight necessary to sustain writerly culture? And in what media does literary criticism belong?

Our panellists address the challenges of book criticism in Australia and those facing Australian literature as a whole - including the exclusion of books from high school and university reading lists. And while Craven expresses confidence that long form writing still has a comfortable home in newsprint, others suggest that the future of considered commentary lies elsewhere.

In a follow up piece published in The Age, Craven celebrated the discussion while exploring links between fandom and criticism. Starford, on the other hand, felt “frustrated and disappointed” by the experience, suggesting that critiques of online publishing should take a more nuanced, informed look, and that critics everywhere can benefit from an open, malleable understanding of their craft.

Infinite Patience blogger Daniel Wood asserts that blogs allow for “perpetual elaboration on and refinement of standards”. Emmett Stinson meanwhile observes tension between “economic and ‘literary’ value” of books.


Watch other Critical Failure events

Visual Arts Criticism

Theatre Criticism

Film Criticism

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