Davidson, Jim: Biography and Australian ambiences

Davidson, Jim

The biography as periscope: exploring Australian ambiences‘, Meanjin, 73, 1, March 2014

Looks at how biography gives ‘glimpses of another world. A life will progress from one ambience to another, and at certain points the biographer can pause and push up the periscope. Because biography particularises, it can vividly illustrate a point that normally is made at a high level of generalisation.’

The author notes how the life of Louise Hanson-Dwyer, musical patron, was impacted by anti-German feeling during World War I, how the life of Sir Keith Hancock, historian, illustrated how an Australian related to the then British Empire and how the lives of Clem Christesen and Stephen Murray-Smith, editors, helped make sense of the development of Australian culture after World War II.

‘Ambience is, among other things, a number of connections, imperatives and assumptions; a configuration of the world as a prelude to action.’The article explores this theme in relation to the people mentioned above and others. The author is a former editor of Meanjin, whose story is told briefly here.

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