School of Humanities

Profile

Nathan Hobby

Thesis

"The Memory of a Storm: The Early Life of Katharine Susannah Prichard, 1883-1919" and "Theory and Praxis for Australian Literary Biography"

Summary

This creative writing PhD is a biography of the early life of the Australian writer Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969), with a critical component discussing the development of an appropriate form of biography for the project. The biography will narrate the personal, literary, and political development of Prichard, from her birth in Fiji through her work as a governess, teacher and journalist in Melbourne and London, to her literary success and conversion to communism. It will be a literary work open to the creative possibilities of the genre, while building on extensive research using her autobiographical writings, her other published works, newspapers, archival sources, and background material on her milieu. The critical component will address the relationship of the genre of biography to both history and the novel; the choices facing the biographer in the use of literary devices; and the challenge of relating the work of an author to their life.

Why my research is important

Prichard's life is an important topic of research because of her literary significance as an Australian novelist; her historical interest as a prominent communist; and the compelling drama of her resilient life. In the 1930s, the literary critic Hartley Grattan was convinced she was the ‘hope of the Australian novel.’ Over a period of fifty-two years, she published thirteen novels, a number of them widely acclaimed and influential, finding an audience around the world. Although remembered for her staunch communism, her life-long activism began with her involvement with a number of progressive causes in London and Melbourne in the early years of the twentieth century. She endured the suicides of both her father and her husband, just two incidents in a life marked by tragedy, determination, idealism, and compassion.

Funding

  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • University of Western Australia Safety Net Top Up

Prichard pictured in the Petersburg Times (South Aust) 3 Dec 1915.