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The Australian National University

National Centre of Biography Podcasts

Tiping Su 27 October 2016

The podcast looks at the entries on Australians of Chinese heritage in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  Tipping Su also discussed Australians of Chinese heritage who were significant and representative but who have been overlooked or neglected and are ‘missing’ from the ADB.

Tiping Su was awarded his PhD in comparative literature and world literature from Renmin University of China in 2013 and now works in the Australian Studies Centre, School of English Studies, Xi’an International Studies University. He visited the National Centre of Biography in 2011; he is currently the holder of a one-year fellowship at the ANU, again attached to the NCB. He is interested in English literature, history and Australian Chinese, especially about the question of identity. He has published several papers on Australian literature and Australian Chinese, such as Landscape Narrative and national traits and others.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 27 October 2016.

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Stephen Wilks 28 July 2016

Stephen Wilks discussd his researches into the remarkable but little studied Earle Christmas Grafton Page – Country Party leader, Treasurer, Prime Minister and perhaps the most extraordinary visionary to hold high public office in the Australian Commonwealth. Page’s incessant activism in issues of regionalism, new states, hydro-electricity, economic planning, co-operative federalism and rural universities make him a vehicle for studying the place in Australian history of ideas and ambitions for national development – ‘developmentalism’. 

Stephen Wilks is in the final throws of a PhD on the policy ideas of Earle Page.  He studied economic history at Monash University before embarking on a decidedly mixed career in government based in Canberra and overseas, covering almost as many different issues as did Page himself. This was leavened by a shadow career writing reviews and articles for newspapers and magazines on Australian history and anything else editors would entrust him with. When not still labouring in the public service he is often to be spotted in the vicinities of the ANU History School, the National Library and such-like institutions.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 July 2016.

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CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS: True Biographies of Nations? Exploring the Cultural Journeys of Dictionaries of National Biography, 1 July-2 July 2016

Friday, 1 July, State of the Art: Opportunities to Transform National Dictionaries of Biography

Session 1
9.00-9.30am
NLA welcome: Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Director-General
ANU welcome: Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, ANU Chancellor

9.30-11.00am Using Lives? Utilizing the rich databases we are creating
Prof. Melanie Nolan (ADB & ANU), ‘Using Lives: the ADB and its related corpora’
Christine Fernon and Scott Yeadon (ADB, ANU), ‘NCB/ADB websites: The value of value adding’
Chair: Dr Malcolm Allbrook
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Session 2
11.30-1.00pm Global biography? The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, big data and transnational networks
Dr Philip Carter (ODNB and Oxford University), ‘What is national biography for? Past, Present and Future Journeys’
Prof. Sir David Cannadine (ODNB and Princeton University), ‘Oxford in the World: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Global Biography’
Chair: Prof. Paul Arthur
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Session 3
2.00-3.30pm Bringing the nation back in? A debate on the contemporary role of national dictionary projects
Em. Prof. Jock Phillips, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Dr Malcom Allbrook, Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography
Kent Fitch, computing and database specialist
Chair: Prof. Nicholas Brown
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Session 4
4.00-5.30pm Panel discussion: Revising dictionaries
*Prof. Susan Ware (American National Biography & Harvard), ‘Why Gender Matters: Fostering Diversity in the American National Biography’
*Turlough O'Riordan (Dictionary of Irish Biography & Royal Irish Academy) ‘The Irish World: How to revise a long-standing dictionary project’
*Prof. Elizabeth Ewan (Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women & University of Guelph) ‘Revising the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: Questions of Identity, History and Technology’
Chair: Prof. Ira Nadel (former editor Dictionary of Literary Biography, University of British Columbia)
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Saturday 2 July: Challenges Facing Digital Biographical Dictionary Projects

Session 1
9.00-11.00am Moderator: Dr Karen Fox (ADB, ANU): Setting the scene: History of Australasian biographical dictionaries and the issues they face
Kerry Kilner, University of Queensland (AustLit)
Dr Nikki Henningham, Australian Women’s Register
Kay Walsh, Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate
Dr Odette Best, Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography
Ass. Prof. Gavan McCarthy, eScholarship Research Centre (Encyclopedia of Australian Science)
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Session 2
11.30-12.30pm Publishing in the Digital Age: privacy and access, rights
Dr Philip Carter (ODNB)
Prof. Melanie Nolan (ADB)
Prof. Susan Ware (ANB)
Chair: Dr Nicole McLennan
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Session 3
1.30-3.00pm Beyond the Nation: Writing a Dictionary of World Biography
Barry Jones, AC FAA FACE FAHA FASSA FTSE (University of Melbourne, formerly Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge) in conversation with Prof. Sir David Cannadine
Chair: Dr Samuel Furphy
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Philip Butterss 30 June 2016

Dr Philip Butterss talked about C.J. Dennis, whose best-selling books The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and The Moods of Ginger Mick made him a literary celebrity during the First World War and beyond, and are credited by some as helping to shape the ANZAC legend.

Philip Butterss studied at the University of Sydney where he completed a degree in Early English literature and language. He currently teaches Australian literature and film at the University of Adelaide.

Philip's book An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C.J. Dennis won the 2015 National Biography Award.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 30 June 2016.

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Paul Pickering 26 May 2016

Paul discusses 'The Biographical Turn: new ways of thinking about collective lives'.

Professor Paul Pickering is currently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Australian National University and was previously Director at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts. Before that he was Deputy Director (2010-13), Director of Graduate Studies (2004-9) and a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre (2000-4). He has published widely, his most recent books being Feargus O'Connor: A Political Life (2008) and Historical Reenactment: From Realism to the Affective Turn (2010). His articles have been published by leading journals, both in Australia and overseas. In 2014 he was an Andrew Mellon Research Fellow at the Huntington Library in California, and a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow at Newcastle University in England.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 May 2016.

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Stephen Foster 25 February 2016

Stephen discussed microhistory – a small story with potentially large meanings.

In mid-1825 Cecilia Zoffany, daughter of the illustrious painter Johann Zoffany, a woman of ‘rank and fashion’ and reputed to be a great beauty, arrived with two of her children on the island of Guernsey. For the previous three years she had been estranged and living apart from her husband, the Reverend Thomas Horne, who had provided her and the children with sufficient to live on.

Now Reverend Horne was determined to have his children back. His wife was equally determined to keep them. The ensuing battle packed the island’s courthouse and enthralled the local community, until it reached its inevitable climax – and unexpected denouements.

Some years ago, when I spoke on this subject in the History Seminar in RSSS, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. An academic paper would not do it justice. A film (preferably with Cate Blanchett in the title role) was easy to imagine – but unhappily I live in the real world. Eventually I settled on a little book, now nearly completed. A book is conventional; but I hope my presentation of the story isn’t. Microhistory lends itself to genre-bending: and here I experiment with voice, structure, tensions between history and fiction, and devices to leave the reader wondering what happens next. I will reflect in the workshop on each of these issues.

Stephen Foster is an Adjunct Professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 25 February 2016.

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Helen Trinca 29 October 2015

Helen discusses writing her book Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John (Text Publishing 2013).

Biographers regularly come across material that is sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes difficult to prove – and not necessarily central to their subject. That's when they must decide whether to publish and be damned or excise the information from their drafts. Madeline St John, an impoverished expatriate writer who was short-listed for the Booker Prize, was the daughter of well-known Liberal politician, Ted St John. Their relationship was often fraught, but should Ted's personal life as an adult be included in an account of his daughter's life?

Helen Trinca was born and raised in Perth and initially worked as a journalist for the West Australian. Since then, she has worked mainly for the Australian, as well as undertaking brief stints with the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, and even at one point with the ANU Reporter. She is currently Managing Editor of the Australian.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 30 July 2015.

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Philip Ayres 30 July 2015

Philip discusses writing biography: the generation of forward momentum, the question of fate vs will, and the concept of essence in regard to character.

Philip is the author of acclaimed biographies of Owen Dixon: a biography (2007), Fortunate Voyager: the worlds of Ninian Stephen (2013), Malcolm Fraser: a biography (1987), Prince of the Church: Patrick Francis Moran 1830-1911 (2007), and Mawson: a life (2003). 

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 30 July 2015.

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Andrew Tink 25 June 2015

Andrew discusses his latest book, Australia 1901 – 2001: a narrative history (2014), a story is driven by people: prime ministers, soldiers, shopkeepers, singers, footballers and farmers, be they men or women, Australian-born, immigrant or Aboriginal.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 25 June 2015.

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Alison Alexander 28 May 2015

Alison discusses writing The Ambitions of Jane Franklin (Allen & Unwin) which won the 2014 National Biography Award.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 May 2015.

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Sheila Fitzpatrick, 30 April 2015

Sheila discusses her books, My Father’s Daughter (2010), a memoir of her father, the radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick, and her own childhood in Melbourne in the 1940s and '50s; A Spy in the Archives (2013) which told of her experiences as a young historian researching her dissertation in Moscow in the 1960s and On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, due for publication by Princeton University Press this year.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 May 2015.

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Estelle Blackburn 26 March 2015
Estelle Blackburn, author of Broken Lives (1998) and The End of Innocence (2007), speaks about her experiences of writing a biography of serial killer, Eric Edgar Cooke (1931-1964).

Estelle Blackburn OAM is a former Perth journalist who now works for the NSW Minister for Health. Broken Lives won her a Walkley award in 2001 and the Western Australian Premier’s book prize for non-fiction in 1999.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 March 2015.

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Life Writing, 26 February 2015

Led by NCB PhD candidate, Sophie Scott-Brown, this workshop discussed issues relevant to life-writing and, more generally, to the humanities such as:
• is biography simply a poetic form of biology?
• what is the line between biography and psycho-analysis?
• does a leader flourish or fall through the telling of a life-story?
• do personal details undermine big ideas?
• iconoclasm: important cultural critique or misanthropic hatchet-job?

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 February 2015.

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Dr Nigel Starke, 28 August 2014

Dr Stark examines the ethical challenges in researching and composing biography, illustrated by his experiences in writing a life of Russell Braddon (Proud Australian Boy: a biography of Russell Braddon, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2011) and his recent book on novelist and traveller Anthony Trollope’s visit to Australia and New Zealand in the 1870s. (The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australian Odyssey, Lansdown, 2014.) 

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 August 2014.

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James Button, 31 July 2014

James discusses what writing an accidental biography of his father, the Labor Senator and Minister, John Button Speechless: A Year in My Father's Business (2012), taught him about his father, Australia and himself.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 31 July 2014.

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Peter Fitzpatrick, 27 March 2014 ‘How to outwit your biographer: a study of the contrasting challenges of misleading evidence in my two dual biographies, Pioneer Players: The Lives of Louis and Hilda Esson and The Two Frank Thrings.’

Peter Fitzpatrick has published widely in the field of Australian theatre, and is the author of two ‘dual biographies’: Pioneer Players: The Lives of Louis and Hilda Esson (1995), which was shortlisted for four national awards, and The Two Frank Thrings (2012), winner of the National Biography Prize.

He has also produced two novels, Death in the Back Pocket (1993, with Barbara Wenzel) and Promontory (2001), and two feature film screenplay adaptations – Hotel Sorrento (1995) for which he won an AFI Award, and Brilliant Lies (1997).

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 27 March 2014.

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26 June 2014: Constructing and Deconstructing Ideas of Character in Life Writing

Led by PhD candidate, Sophie Scott-Brown, this workshop explored the ways in which we construct and deconstruct ideas of character in life writing.

How do we come to get a sense of someone? How do we look for clues that tell us something about a person and their character traits? How do we fit these against the wider story that we are attempting to tell: what, for example, are the implications for the idea of character in a biographical history as opposed to a historical biography?

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 June 2014.

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