Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Vol 7 (2007)

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The clash of paradigms: Australian literary theory after liberalism

Mark Davis


This essay argues that contemporary Australian literary theory, like most varieties of contemporary critical theory, is losing whatever relevance it once had, not because ‘theory’ has lost intellectual force, but because the contexts in which it operated have radically changed. A ‘crisis in liberalism’ and the rise of neo-liberalism and the new conservatism, I argue, requires a reassessment of the project of critical theory. This is especially crucial in the case of Australian literary criticism, given that Australian literary liberalism is historically complicit with a wider white patrician liberalism that has recently begun to contest itself in response to the new conservative politics of race.

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