JSA authors have been busy

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  • Post published:September 15, 2014
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Professor Tim Entwisle: Sprinter and Sprummer: Australia’s Changing Seasons

John Wiltshire: The Hidden Jane Austen

Paul Tankard: Facts and Inventions: Selections from the Journalism of James Boswell

Bronwen Hickmann: Mary Gaunt, Independent Colonial Woman

JSA members have been busy writing and publishing books, as this article shows:


Sprinter and Sprummer and Johnson

In a book just published by CSIRO (Sprinter and Sprummer: Australia’s Changing Seasons) Professor Tim Entwisle Director and Chief Executive, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, suggests a 5-season model for southern Australia, holding that the present four seasons just don’t suit our climate.

And, as a member of the Johnson Society of Australia and a devoted Johnsonian, he has used quotes from Johnson to point up some of his arguments. He says:

“Since 1788, Australia has celebrated four European seasons that make no sense in most parts  I think it’s high time to reject those seasons, to adopt a system that brings us more in tune with our plants and animals; a system to help us to notice and respond to climate change.

“It starts with sprinter (August and September), the early Australian spring. That’s when the bushland and our gardens burst into flower. Next is sprummer (October and November), the changeable season, bringing a second wave of flowering.

“Summer (December to March) should be four months long, extending into March when there are still plenty of fine, warm days. Autumn (April and May) barely registers in Sydney but further south we get good autumn colour on mostly exotic trees, as well as peak fungal fruiting. Winter (June and July) is a short burst of cold weather and a time when the plant world is preparing for the sprinter ahead.

“My system is a compromise, based mostly on what plants do. Whether my new seasons are adopted or not, I hope they encourage people to notice the natural world around us. And how it changes seasonally and in response to the way we treat it.

“I also hope, in a much smaller way, that Dr Samuel Johnson receives a little attention as a man who as I say in my acknowledgements can be a “source of intellectual sustenance”. I mention Johnson here and there, mostly in reference to his definition of spring being ‘the season in which plants rise and revegetate; the vernal season’.This is an important part of my argument – the season of spring, or as I call it in Australia, sprinter, should begin when the plants ‘rise and revegetate’.

“I include Johnson’s definitions from his dictionary for the other seasons as well, using these to set up the system I wish to adjust for our particular region of the world. I also include a longer quote from his Idler series:

This distinction of seasons is produced only by imagination operating on luxury. To temperance every day is bright, and every hour is propitious to diligence. He that shall resolutely excite his faculties, or exert his virtues, will soon make himself superior to the seasons, and may set at defiance the morning mist, and the evening damp, the blasts of the east, and the clouds of the south.” Samuel Johnson, Idler No. 11 (24 June 1758).

“A lovely quote and one I use to introduce the chapter on sprummer, the season that lies between sprinter and summer, typified by changeable somewhat cranky weather. I’ve been intrigued by Samuel Johnson the man and the writer, and by his times, for much of my life. Writing this book gave me a chance to honour him a little.”

New Jane Austen book

John Wiltshire’s new book The Hidden Jane Austen, published by Cambridge University Press, has been described by critics as “penetrating the unromantic intelligence” behind Austen’s courtship plots, exploring the psychological complexity and revealing the verbal structures of her novels.

“The result of Wiltshire’s long and rich reading experience , The Hidden Jane Austen will not only provoke rereadings of Austen’s fiction, but will itself be read—and reread—with real pleasures.” (Susan Allen Ford, Editor, Persuasions/Persuasions On-Line.

“For readers and especially rereaders of Jane Austen, this remarkably perceptive work will hold many attractions. John Wultshire brings to bear on the various passages he selects for particular attentionan expertise inmodern psychology and psychological criticism, as well as exceptional skills in analysingthe texture of Austens prose.”(Professor Peter Sabor, McGill University.

The Hidden Jane Austen was launched in Australia by Professor Kate Burridge at the new Docklands Library at 4pm on September 13

Tankard on Boswell

Paul Tankard’s new book, Facts and Inventions: Selections from the Journalism of James Boswell, has been published by Yale University Press. The book, which grew out of Paul’s doctoral thesis, is described by the publisher thus:

“James Boswell (1740–1795), best known as the biographer of Samuel Johnson, was also a lawyer, journalist, diarist, and an insightful chronicler of a pivotal epoch in Western history.

“This fascinating collection, edited by Paul Tankard, presents a generous and varied selection of Boswell’s journalistic writings, most of which have not been published since the eighteenth century. It offers a new angle on the history of journalism, an idiosyncratic view of literature, politics, and public life in late eighteenth-century Britain, and an original perspective on a complex and engaging literary personality.”

Paul is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Pioneer woman writer

Long-time JSA committee member Bronwen Hickmann has published her book  Mary Gaunt, Independent Colonial Woman, on the pioneering author and journalist, Mary Gaunt, who  was born in the Victorian Goldfields in 1861.

She was one of the first female students to attend the University of Melbourne, and afterwards wrote stories and articles to fund her travels, proving that a woman could live by her penin that era.

Mary Gaunt trekked through the great mahogany forests of West Africa. She went to China in the chaos that followed the downfall of the Ch’ing dynasty, and narrowly avoided the marauding White Wolf. When war came, she was trapped behind enemy lines and never made it home to Australia.