Richard Flanagan has been called many things in his life, some probably unprintable, but until now he has never been called professor.
That’s about to change after the Man Booker-winning Tasmanian author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North was named as inaugural Boisbouvier Founding Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.
The chair was set up thanks to a $5 million donation from merchant banker John Wylie and his wife, Myriam Boisbouvier-Wylie. Its structure is reminiscent of Oxford’s poetry chair, which is customarily filled by an eminent poet such as Seamus Heaney.
The appointment is for five years.
Flanagan said he wanted to lay the foundations for something that would have an enduring and central place in Australian literary life.
“It is a unique honour carrying with it a larger possibility. While allowing me to continue writing, I see it as an invitation to create a greater appreciation of Australian writing and writers within the university and in Australian society. I hope I can do it some small justice
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• John Martinkus in Comments: Well Done Professor, Can’t help wondering why the University of Tasmania never bestowed this honour upon you. Maybe the non-entities will finally get over their classist cultural cringe that you can’t be the best if you are from Tasmania. Congratulations. You have shown them with class what can be done. Best, John … Re Margaretta. As a former staffer I do know that a hell of a lot of money at UTAS has been thrown around the English School over the years and Richard was never offered anything…that paid. Just pointing out it is a bit sad Tasmania couldn’t recognise the talent here. Had to wait for Melbourne Uni to do it. Sad really, cultural cringe akin to Australia in the 1950’s. When you had to succeed abroad to be recognised.
• Margaretta Pos in Comments: Re John (#11): Not only Richard – Amanda Lohrey is another who the English Department has ignored, despite being an eminent novelist, essayist and creative writing teacher.