This project explores how Australian creative writing of the 1970s changed the way women’s lives were represented, reflecting the shift in societal attitudes of the late twentieth century, leading to the emergence of the modern Australian feminist novel. Australian women’s fiction of the 1970s also provides inspiration for the novel component of this project, Loaded Hearts, which explores women’s subjectivity, their sexuality, notions of marriage and family, independence and agency.
The research component of this project focuses on some neglected writing of the 1970s, examining representations of female subjectivities. ‘New writing’ about sexuality and subjectivity had to gain exposure in ways other than those offered by mainstream publishers. It was the early work and persistence of some writers, often those writing from the margins, that forged advances for women writers in the 1970s.
An overview of the field reveals the burgeoning voices from migrant, Indigenous, lesbian and counter-cultural writers, working in new ways to illuminate the concerns of women. Vicki Viidikas, for example, used form and voice in poetry and short prose, resulting in discontinuous narratives. Christine Townend extended the novella format into full-length feminist novels. Helen Garner created a novel concerned with women living their politics from her personal journals.
The creative component of this project maps the temporal and emotional territories of women’s lives, family secrets, communal and expatriate lifestyles, identity, place and belonging across two centuries and four continents. It explores relationships in the context of experiences of dislocation: the Vietnam War and its impact, the disintegration of primary connections, the de/re/construction of female subjectivities and the rebuilding of lives within the framework of modern transnational opportunities.
In the acts of critical and creative writing, this research project and its accompanying novel are involved in making meaning of the 1970s and also of the present.