Elements of this exhibition include language or imagery that, though indicative of the period in which they were created, would today be considered culturally insensitive. These are a reflection of past practices, and do not reflect the attitudes or understanding of the University of Melbourne. We acknowledge the historical context in which they were produced, and in consultation with academics and representatives of First Nations peoples around the University, present them in the hope they encourage open discourse.
The University of Melbourne acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands on which of our campuses are situated. We pay our respects to their Elders both past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We recognise their continuing contributions to the academic and cultural life of the University.
80 Years of Meanjin is a collaboration between Archives and Special Collections and Meanjin, using our collection of Meanjin material to celebrate the literary magazine's 80th year. Our program of events will contain four panel discussions or online events throughout the year covering great cover art, letters to the editor, Australian cultural identity as pursued through the pages of Meanjin, and poetry.
Meanjin emerged in a time of war. It started small, hailing from Brisbane, promoting Queensland writers, but its first editor, Clem Christesen always had bolder plans. Within a few years, the content had broadened to include writers from all over Australia, and by 1945 the journal had moved headquarters to Melbourne. Under the somewhat strained auspices of Melbourne University, Meanjin flourished. A quarterly journal that leaned to the left, it would attract an equal quotient of high level of intellectual input and establishment crack-down.
Meanjin has engaged many interesting artists to do covers throughout it's history. Starting from the simple beginnings of a set of footprints by Percy Stanhope Hobday, it has moved through many phases and design styles. Curator of Rare Books , Susan Millard, looks at some of these marvels.
Letters to the editor
Archives and Special Collections hold an array of material relating to Meanjin, including the original archive from Christesen’s thirty-four year editorship. This includes a wealth of correspondence with national and international authors, poets, essayists, critics and cultural figures, which provides insight into both Meanjin and Christesen’s underlying philosophies, ambitions, biases and principles.
Australian nationalism and the cultural cringe
Australia in the 1940s was struggling to find its own national Identity. In post-colonial terms, it was still young. Faced with the horror of World War II, some groups of writers and artists looked to Aboriginal mythology and artwork to provide a new culture that differentiated it from old Europe. Literary publications and movements like Meanjin, Angry Penguins and the Jindyworobaks were all trying to forge a new sense of nationalism, which, in their minds was a positive step away from Britain. We can now see their misguided lack of actual consultation with first nations people as problematic, even if their thoughts were radical in the society in which they lived.
Striving to 'talk poetry'
‘Poetry’s unnat’ral; no man ever talked poetry ’cept a beadle on boxin’ day, or Warren’s blackin’ or Rowland’s oil, or some o’ them low fellows; never you let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy.’
But we have disregarded Tony Weller’s advice to his son, Samuel. In an age governed by the stomach-and-pocket view of life, and at a time of war and transition, we still strive to ‘talk poetry’. For we believe that it is our duty to do so. Forward of the first edition of Meanjin papers, December 1940