Thomas Keneally's Career and the Literary Machine

Thomas Keneally's Career and the Literary Machine

By Paul Sharrad

Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

Thomas Keneally: world success story or Australian writer who never fulfilled early potential? ‘Thomas Keneally’s Career and the Literary Machine’ explains the disparate opinions, charting his writing’s production and reception as shaping a literary career. It tracks tensions between literary and commercial values, national and international expectations, celebrity status and literary reputation.

PDF, 270 Pages


August 2019

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 270 Pages


August 2019

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

Thomas Keneally is known as a best-selling novelist and public figure in his Australian homeland and has also managed a transnational career. He is, however, something of a conundrum in being regularly disparaged by critics and often failing to meet expectations of sales. ‘Thomas Keneally’s Career and the Literary Machine’ explains some of the reasons behind such disparities, focusing in part on his deliberate transition from high-style modernist to ‘journeyman’ entertainer while continuing to write across both modes. 

Reactions to this shift have been framed by critical and cultural investments, and by an idea of the literary career common to both high literary and popular taste. This study examines the complex network that is a career, considering personality traits, authorial agency, agents, editors and shifts in publishing from colonial control to multinational corporations. As such, the study moves across and beyond conventional literary biography and literary history, incorporating aspects of book history and celebrity studies.

In doing so, this book relies on Keneally’s extensive archive, much of it previously unexamined. It shows his ambition to earn his living from writing playing out across three markets, his work in other modes (writing for the stage and screen, travel writing, historical narratives) and the breadth and depth of expressions of his social conscience, including political protest, leading professional associations and work for constitutional reform, the Sydney Olympics, and so on. Keneally is seen as playing a long game across several events rather than honing one specialist skill, a strategy that has sustained for more than 50 years his keenness to live off writing.


‘Paul Sharrad skillfully combines insights from biography, literary history, book history and celebrity studies to trace changes in the production and reception of Thomas Keneally’s works both within Australia and internationally.’
—Elizabeth Webby AM FAHA, Professor Emerita, English Department, University of Sydney, Australia

‘Paul Sharrad's landmark study of Thomas Keneally examines his writing in its multiple international and Australian contexts. Likely to be the indispensable evaluation of Keneally’s place in Australian culture.’
—Janet Wilson, Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies, University of Northampton, UK

‘Paul Sharrad’s thorough and entertaining survey not only tells us much about Keneally we never knew before but also shows that the study of an author’s career can be a new way to measure the stature of a literary artist.’
—Nicholas Birns, Associate Professor, School of Professional Studies, New York University, USA

‘In this important contribution to book history, Paul Sharrad applies the lens of the literary career to the prolific though often divisive work of Thomas Keneally, charting a course between literary and commercial fiction, history and fiction, authorship and celebrity, and the opposing frames of national and world literatures.’
—Robert Dixon, Professor of Australian Literature, University of Sydney, Australia

Author Information

Paul Sharrad, Senior Fellow in English, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia, has published widely on postcolonial literatures.


Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Beginnings; 2. The Collins Years; 3. To the Booker; 4. Afterwards; 5. Republic and Beyond; 6. Histories and Refugees; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.


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