From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott

Peter D Mathews

From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott
Cambria Press
1 July 2022

From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott

Peter D Mathews

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John A. Scott began his literary life as a poet, but a fellowship in Paris persuaded him to write novels instead. The move was a success, with Scott's fiction winning the Victorian Premier's Literary Award and being shortlisted twice for the Miles Franklin Award. This book aims to illuminate his texts by guiding the reader through some of the key ideas and influences that have informed his Orphic journey from poet to novelist.

John A. Scott is one of the greatest Australian writers of his generation, yet his work has largely been overlooked by the world of academic criticism. From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott aims to correct this oversight by providing the reader with the tools to read and understand this important author.

The complexity of Scott's writings makes this book an invaluable guide to his work for readers at all levels. His debt to the French avant-garde, for instance, means that there are numerous hidden references to authors like Baudelaire, Mallarme, Apollinaire, Breton, Aragon and, most prominently, Rimbaud, that require explanation to retrieve the work from obscurity and misunderstanding. Scott engages a wide-ranging set of texts and ideas, from nineteenth-century realism to Australian political history, which are illuminated by this book.

Scott's career may be divided between his initial incarnation as a poet, followed by a deeply considered decision to give up poetry and write prose fiction instead. The works that Scott produces in the lead-up to this transition thus thematize the abandonment of poetry, considering it in light of such precedents as Rimbaud, as well as the Greek myth of Orpheus. The impossibility of truly renouncing poetry is signaled by Scott's return to the genre some twenty-five years later. The book also examines how Scott matures as a fiction writer, both in the complexity of his style and in his growing concern with ethics and politics.

Written in an accessible manner that will be helpful to new readers, the first in-depth academic study of Scott's work also holds the complexity and depth that will appeal to long-time connoisseurs of his work.

From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott is a valuable resource for academic researchers, students, and general readers interested in Australian literature and culture.

This book is in the Cambria Australian Literature book series (Series editor: Dr. Susan Lever).

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