Earlier this month I mused about the apparent decline in interest in Australian literature. Neil (Ninglun) took something of an opposing view, adding an Oz Lit tag to his current blog. That, I thought, was a very positive outcome from the discussion since Neil is much more familiar with current writing than I am.
In a piece in the Bulletin headed Write Australia Policy, Professor Peter Pierce also lamented the decline. Here he said in part:
The number of academic courses in Australian literature has sharply fallen. Less and less of it is taught in schools. The quantity of Australian titles in print (the vital resource for course planning) has shrunk. The number of novels published fell from 60 in 1995 to 32 in 2004. Sales of Australian fiction declined from $123m in 2001 to $73m in 2004. Last year, there were two chairs of Australian literature - only two, and one of them mine - now there is one.
I was quite astonished at the low number of new publications. I do wonder about the definitions used. Do they, for example, include young people's fiction? There has always been an academic snobbery as to what counts as "literature" or, for that matter, "novels". Do they include books written by Australians, but published internationally?
All that said, Professor Pierce appears to confirm in rather dramatic fashion the point I was musing about.