Worth a Call

Convenor, ‘Speculating upon Biography’: An International Symposium dedicated to exploring the boundaries of biography, CQUniversity Noosa, 25-26 October 2018

Co-editor, The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture https://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=202/


Professor Donna Lee Brien BEd (Deakin), GCHEd (UNE), MA(Prelim) (USyd), MA (UTS), PhD (QUT)

Professor, Creative Industries | School of Education and Arts
CQUniversity Australia, 90 Goodchap Street, Noosa Qld 4566 (PO Box 1128) 

+61 07 61 07 5440 7076 | E d.brien@cqu.edu.au


I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work and learn, and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.

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Calling all writers: Important Upcoming Symposium

Call for abstracts:

‘Speculating upon Biography’:

An International Symposium dedicated to exploring the boundaries of biography

25-26 October 2018, Noosa Queensland Australia

The etymology of biography comes from the Greek βίος(bíos, “life”) plus γράφω

(gráphō, “write”), which explains why most definitions describe this genre as a

narrative of a life, that is written by someone else with the intention of offering an

historically-accurate account of this person. Despite this emphasis upon veracity,

biography has long been a vibrant site for experimentation. Over forty years ago,

esteemed biographer Leon Edel acknowledged that ‘there’s a great deal of

speculation in [all] biography’ because biographers ‘can never know everything …

most readers understand that there will be a degree of ‘informed speculation’ (qtd.

in McCullough 1985, online).

More recently, some writers have chosen to experiment further with biography,

employing conjecture and ‘informed imagination’ to fill in the gaps and silences in

the archives, and when writing the lives of those who are under-represented in

sources and obscured from the historical record. Such works have come to be known

as ‘speculative biography’, not only because they challenge traditional notions of

authorial veracity but also because, in contrast to biographically-based fiction or

historical fiction, these experimental approaches are still clearly recognizable as nonfictional

attempts to explore and express the ‘truth’. And yet, despite the fact that

such speculative work has significant implications for postcolonial histories globally

as well as the way we construct notions of ‘truth’, little scholarly attention has been

devoted to the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of this new variant of

biography or to exploring key works thus produced.

This one-day multi-disciplinary event will remedy this by inviting investigation into

speculative biography and exploring associated practices and processes including:

Definitions, models and methods for writing speculative biography

Theoretical underpinnings of speculative biography

Possibilities and challenges of speculative biographical writing

Speculative biography and historical fiction: similarities and differences

Speculative biography and questions of truth, fiction and fictionalization

Speculative biography, lost lives and forgotten life stories

Past and recent speculative biographies

Ethical issues in writing speculative biography

Speculation, gaps in the historical record and fragmentary/unreliable sources

Beyond the violence of the archive

Writing and publishing speculative biography

Speculative biography for younger readers

Speculative biographical memoir

Speculative graphic and comic biographies

National histories of speculative biographical production

Implications of speculative biography for postcolonial historical enquiry

The reception of speculative biography

Other relevant topics and issues

Keynote Speakers

Professor Donna Lee Brien has been writing, and writing about, experimental and

speculative biography since the 1990s. Recent books aligned with the topic include

Recovering History Through Fact and Fiction: Forgotten Lives (with Dallas Baker and

Nike Sulway, 2017) and Assisting International Students Develop and Publish Accounts

of Learning Transformation Due to their Australian Experiences (with Alison Owens,

2015). Offshoot: Contemporary Life Writing Methodologies and Practice (with Quinn

Eades) will be published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. With over

250 published book chapters, journal articles, refereed conference papers and

creative works, and editor of over 40 themed special issues of journals, Donna is the

current co-editor of the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and past

Commissioning Editor, Special Issues, TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses.

Dr Kiera Lindsey is an award-winning historian who published a speculative

biography entitled The Convict’s Daughter: The Scandal that Shocked a Colony with

Australia’s largest independent publishing house, Allen & Unwin in 2016. The

Convict’s Daughter received positive trade and scholarly reviews and is now in its 4th

print run. In 2017, Kiera was awarded an ARC DECRA for a project entitled

‘Speculative Biography, Historical Craft and the Case of Adelaide Ironside’. This

project, which she will complete at UTS, will reconstitute the scanty archive of

Australian colonial artist Adelaide Ironside into a narrative-driven speculative

biography, before critically investigating this process in a series of publications,

masterclasses and public workshops aimed at encouraging others intent upon

recovering lost lives for general readers. Kiera is an enthusiastic communicator who

recently appeared in a four-part HISTORY Channel TV series. She is also a regular

presenter on ABC’s Nightlife program.


To encourage discussion and explore the creative possibilities and challenges of

speculative biography, this symposium includes a Masterclass workshop. Together,

we will consider a host of case studies and potential methodologies useful to writers

wrestling with stories and sources that resist a straightforward approach. This

workshop will appeal to practitioners keen to experiment with biography and

historical writing as well as theorists considering the critical and ethical implications

of genre-transgression. We welcome those working in biography, history, creative

writing and life writing as well as family-historians and theoretical scholars.


An edited book and/or refereed journal issue will be produced from this event.

Abstracts (250 words max) and your name, email plus brief bio note (50-100 words)

due 30 May 2018, email to Kiera.Lindsey@uts.edu.au

**Please put ‘2018 International Speculating on Biography Symposium abstract’ in

the subject line of your email

Location CQUniversity, Noosa campus

90 Goodchap Street, Noosaville Qld 4566

Contact/ all queries Professor Donna Lee Brien

CQUniversity, Noosa campus d.brien@cqu.edu.au

We look forward to welcoming you to beautiful Noosa!


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Representations of the Mother-in-law in literature, film, drama, and televsion

Something different.

This new book, edited by Dr Jo Parnell, has a foreword by Conjoint Associate Professor Jo May, and a conclusion by the highly-esteemed, world known Shakespearian scholar, Professor Hugh Craig FAHA; all three academics are from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

This scholarly, international collection consists of chapters by well-known academics, writing about the mother-in-law figure as perceived in the various cultures around the world.

This book is a comprehensive study of some ways of treating the subject that demonstrate new and unusual perspectives, and provides a different approach to the popularly-held views of mothers-in-law; and that further address these works as popular culture; and as texts in their own right from within the framework of literary theory; and as works that demonstrate the ability to reach and connect with, and satisfy, both the general reader, the student, and the scholar, from all levels and walks of life.

Publishing with Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield), Maryland,  USA.

Due out in July 2018.

Pre-publication orders now open. View the sites below.

Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature, Film, Drama, and …

Edited by Jo Parnell – Contributions by Cecilia Alero Titilayo Saibu; David Wafula Yenjela; Shalini Nadaswaran; Marquita M. Gammage; Jane Bellemore; Terry … This book is a comprehensive study of some ways of treating the subject that demonstrate new and unusual perspectives, and provides a different approach to the …

Social Science / Media Studies | Rowman & Littlefield


Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature … – Amazon.com

Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature, Film, Drama, and Television [Jo Parnell, Cecilia Alero Titilayo Saibu, David Wafula Yenjela, Shalini … pages; Publisher: Lexington Books (July 15, 2018); Language: English; ISBN-10: 1498569064; ISBN-13: 978-1498569064; Shipping Information: View shipping rates and …

Available in Hard Cover and EBook
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Great Article

Josephine May (2018) Gender and hyper-linear history in the representation of the female Australian primary school teacher in Marion (ABCTV, 1974),

Download a free copy at Taylor & Francis Online from the following link:  http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/swyrqCbpkCPMTGHJEvRB/full



History of Education

Journal of the History of Education Society

Volume 47, 2018 – Issue 2: Sight, Sound and Text in the History of Education

CrossRef citations


Gender and hyper-linear history in the representation of the female Australian primary school teacher in Marion (ABCTV, 1974)

Pages 209-224
Received 17 Mar 2017
Accepted 14 Dec 2017
Published online: 15 Jan 2018
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Worth a Read

Recovering History through Fact and Fiction: Forgotten Lives, eds. Dallas John Baker, Donna Lee Brien & Nike Sulway, 2017 http://www.cambridgescholars.com/recovering-history-through-fact-and-fiction

Reviews for Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

“In exploring and discussing new and very different ways of approaching the genre and associated forms, this book models diversity and coherence, and challenges the reader’s intellect. The work also challenges the ways in which biography and auto/ biographical writings within established areas have been previously viewed, and it has the potential to broaden one’s knowledge. The book invites critical thinking and raises new questions about new and unusual approaches to the form. Together, these factors result in a book that raises the benchmark for this life writing genre and its associated and multifarious forms and hybridisations, and sub-generic forms.”
Dr Jo Parnell
University of Newcastle, Australia




Life Sciences
Health Sciences
Physical Sciences
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Picture of Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

Forgotten Lives

Editor(s):Dallas John Baker, Donna Lee Brien, Nike Sulway
Contributors:Catherine Padmore, Bernadette Meenach, Alison Bedford, Libby Connors, Donna Lee Brien, Laurie Johnson, More…

Book Description

This edited collection brings together research that focuses on historic figures who have been largely neglected by history or forgotten over time. The question of how to recover, reclaim or retell the histories and stories of those obscured by the passage of time is one of growing public and scholarly interest. The volume includes chapters on a diverse array of topics, including semi-biographical fiction, digital and visual biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs, among others. Apart from the largely forgotten, the book provides fresh perspectives on historical figures whose biographies are distorted by their fame or limited by public perception. The subjects explored here include, among others, a child author, a Finnish grandmother, a cold war émigré, an Elizabethan era playwright, a castaway, a celebrated female artist, and the lauded personalities Mary Shelley, Judy Garland and J.R.R. Tolkien. Altogether, the chapters included in this collection offer a much-needed snapshot of new research on biography and its many variations and hybrids which will be of interest to academics and students of biography and life writing in general.


Date of Publication:01/12/2017
Pages / Size:200 / A5


Dr Dallas John Baker is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Communication at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Under the nom de plume D.J. McPhee he has published three young adult fantasy novels: Waycaller (2016), Keysong (2016) and Oracle (2017). He has served as Editor of Special Issues of TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, and his current research interests are memoir and memory, scriptwriting, and publishing.

Professor Donna Lee Brien, PhD, is Professor of Creative Industries at Central Queensland University, Australia. Her publications include John Power 1881-1943 (1991) and the Girl’s Guide self-help series. Past President of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, she is co-founding convenor of the Australasian Food Studies Network and Commissioning Editor of Special Issues for TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses. In 2015, she co-edited New Directions in 21st Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass with Lorna Piatti-Farnell, and she is currently co-editing Offshoot: Contemporary Life Writing Methodologies and Practice in Australasia with Quinn Eades.

Dr Nike Sulway is the author of several novels, including Rupetta, which—in 2014—was the first work by an Australian writer to win the James Tiptree, Jr Award. Her previous publications include the novels The Bone Flute, The True Green of Hope, and What the Sky Knows, and her works have won or been shortlisted for a range of national and international awards, including the QLD Premier’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers Award, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards, the IAFA Crawford Award, and the Norma K Hemming Award.

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Old Friends and New

While we were in Thailand Bob and I made many new friends. We first met one of our new friends,  “Mr. A.”, a truly genuine young man who  drives his own taxi for a living, purely by chance. We were out walking one day, passed him on the beach, said g’day, and got talking. In the course of conversation we mentioned that we were staying at the Manathai in Surin Beach. “Mr. A.” gave a surprised laugh, and told us that Dome, a manager  at our hotel and another of our new friends, happened to also be his best friend.

For a good part of our stay in Surin Beach  “Mr A.” was our constant companion. He’d drive up in his taxi straight after breakfast and take us exploring for the day. He introduced us to his friends, told the locals to look after us, and was never short of suggestions about marvellous places to visit. Some of the places he took us to were known to tourists. Other places were off the beaten track and known only to the Thais: mostly, these were “nature” places, the forest hideaways, the rivers and creeks and swimming holes and waterfalls, and the forest walks and clearings that the local Thais took their own families to for picnics and swimming on Sundays and holidays.

With “Mr. A.”, we poked around, talked to the people, discovered beautiful and fascinating places that are virtually unknown to tourists, and learnt a great deal about the Thai culture, the people, the local history, and the traditions and customs.

One of the beautiful spots that “Mr. A.” took us to was  a natural sea-channel that is almost hidden from view.  During bad storms, super tides, and tsunamis, the Thais use this natural channel as a safe haven for their long-tail fishing boats.  Running alongside this sea-channel is a narrow, stone-walled road that opens out to end on the beach. If I understood our history lesson correctly, the local Thais built this walled road by hand.




We explored tiny secret bays and beaches.



In the forest, we saw a great many coconut palms and a lot of different  kinds of edible fruit bearing trees. Some of the trees, such as the mango trees for instance, we already knew, and others, such as the durian, we recognised instantly even though we had never seen one in our lives before.  The durian has quite a distinctive smell. No-one could possibly mistake a durian tree for anything other than a durian tree–the stink of its fruit hangs in the air and instantly lays you flat. In the forest, many of these fruit  trees grow wild, and many more are planted there by the local farmers. In the forest, we climbed steep, rocky, mountain paths, marvelled at  huge edible fungi that are a highly prized delicacy in Thai cuisine, and learnt to identify the various gingers and other edible plants.


Below, left: An act of nature; the dead canes of the giant bamboo fall to the ground and become pipes that channel ground water down the hillside. 

Then there are the waterfalls and the hidden creeks and the leafy, tropical glens.



On another day, we drove along rural back roads beside rubber-tree plantations,


met some of the local farmers,

looked at great stretches of swampy land where water-buffalo once wallowed, and were shocked to see how it is now being cleared ready for future building developments–luxury villas, apartment blocks, and hotels–

and drove through country villages

before finally stumbling upon the inevitable and coming back to the reality of globalisation and commercial-wrappers on heart-attack hamburger buns …

Another of the places  we explored with “Mr. A.” was Old Phuket Town. He took us through the old French Quarter and the old Chinese Quarter and the other quarters and sections, told us the history of the town and its quarters, then dropped us off to walk down an old, old street made famous by the traditional silk merchants.  In this street, nothing much has changed for centuries. The modern-day silk-merchants  still conduct the same businesses their forebears had established long before. Silk-businesses were passed down through the families from generation to generation. At the bottom of this old street we rejoined “Mr. A.” and his taxi, and the three of us went looking for somewhere fairly reasonable to have lunch.

We drove around looking, found a restaurant, and while we were waiting for “Mr. A.” to find a parking spot for his taxi and join us, Bob and I  walked around a corner and bumped into Ronald–a familiar and somewhat vivid character whom we had already met in Australia.  It is widely known that Ronald is an American, and a globe-trotter. Or perhaps I should say he has clones all over  the world in places one would least expect. He has even set up a camp at the base of the great pyramids in Egypt, so I’ve been told.  In any case, Ronald is also a bit of a clown by nature and he couldn’t stop grinning when we met him in Old Phuket Town. In fact, he seemed so delighted to see us that Bob decided to brave the fierce, hot, dust-laden wind that threatened to blow us away, and renew the acquaintance by getting up close and personal.



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Following Up…

Well, following on from my post of last week, it seems that in America the presidential election race is now done and all over bar the shouting, and it seems to me from what I’ve heard on radio and television here on the north coast of Eastern Australia that there is a whole lot of shouting going on. But for all this, I suppose that what it comes down to in the end, is, the people of the USA as well as world trade, world economics, and every other thing these presidential matters affect, now have to be prepared for change.  The powers that be are trying to bring about a smooth transition from the outgoing Obama administration to the incoming Trump administration, and who knows, the transition may well be smooth.  But whichever way you look at it, what the general outcome of the new US Presidency will be remains to be seen as time goes by and the scene unfolds, and history is writ.  As I see it, with what is going on at the present time with the various countries all over the globe, world history is at one of those stand-still,  melting pot points where the whole world is in a shake-up process of redefining itself.  Scary!!! I wonder where the world will be at, in, say, 50  years down the track from now?

In my last post I also noted that according to the Worldometers on the net, as of January 2016 the population of the United States of America (USA) was estimated to be 323 025 335 people, and the population of Australia was estimated to be 24 168 303 people. In regards to where the population figures will be in Australia and America respectively in, say, 50  years from now is a little beyond my maths, but I imagine that  if the population figures in both countries keep climbing the way they have been over the last few years, and the area measurement  in both countries is exactly the same it is deemed to be now, the peoples living then might all be in terrible trouble.

Australia’s Size Compared – Geoscience Australia http://www.ga.gov.au/…/dimensions/australias-size-compared

Australia’s Size Compared. … Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 …

Australia is the planet’s sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. At 7 692 024 km2, it accounts for just five percent of the world’s land area of 149 450 000 km2, and although it is the smallest continental land mass, it is the world’s largest island.

Australia /United States of America overlay comparisons


Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 page. The coastline data is nationally uniform, is sourced primarily from the 1:100 000 scale National Topographic Map Series and is the most authoritative data source currently available to calculate the area of Australia.

United States (Contiguous 48) vs. Australia: Compare Area … https://www.comparea.org

Australia is 1.2% larger than United States (Contiguous 48).



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