Negotiating Gendered Violence in Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing

Stream: Representing Violence
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 1.00 pm – 2.45 pm


This paper examines how, in their literary works, Australian women writers challenge and complicate the figure of the victim of violence by renovating the idea of women as victims. Women’s negotiations of violence feature prominently in Australian womens’s literature. This paper focuses on the winner of the Miles Franklin, Australia’s most prestigious literary award, Evie Wyld’s 2103 novel, All the Birds, Singing. Its woman protagonist with a male-gendered name, Jake, lives on a smallholding looking after a flock of sheep. She has brought with her not just her Australian experience of working with sheep but also disturbing memories of a violent past there. The novel’s engagement with themes of sexual slavery, prostitution and abuse raises issues of gendered violence, victimhood and agency. This paper asks the question of how violence is represented in this text and aims to position it in a continuum of women writers engaging with the topic of gendered violence in Australian literature.


Sue Kossew (Presenter), Monash University
Sue Kossew is Professor of English in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on postcolonial, Australian and South African literature and books including Writing Woman, Writing Place: Contemporary Australian and South African Fiction (2004, 2006) and Lighting Dark Places: Essays on Kate Grenville (2010). She has published extensively on J.M.Coetzee and has held the positions of Distinguished Visiting Chair in Australian Studies at Copenhagen and Cologne Universities. She holds a current ARC Discovery Grant with A/Prof Anne Brewster on gendered violence in Australian women's writing.

Anne Brewster (Presenter), UNSW
Associate Professor Anne Brewster’s books include Literary Formations: Postcoloniality, Nationalism, Globalism (1996) and Aboriginal Women's Autobiography (1995, 2015). She co-edited, with Angeline O’Neill and Rosemary van den Berg, an anthology of Australian Indigenous Writing, Those Who Remain Will Always Remember (2000). She has widely published in journals on critical race and whiteness studies, Aboriginal literature, literary violence, Aboriginal literature and fictocriticism. She was the Regional Chair of the Commonwealth Writers Prize (South Pacific and Southeast Asian Region) for 2009-10.