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Finding the missing pieces: a literary biography of Amy Witting

posted on 22.02.2017, 00:31 by Smee, Colleen Monica
The thesis aims to examine the contribution of this author’s work to the Australian literary canon, through a detailed exploration of Amy Witting’s life story and fictional prose works. Amy Witting claimed that the inspiration for her novels and short stories came from the everyday minutiae of real life. Therefore, the genre of literary biography was chosen as the vehicle of the thesis to explore the ways in which Witting employed occurrences in her own life to inspire and create her short stories and novels. Extensive research and examination of Witting’s life-story led to the identification of seven major events and/or circumstances that exerted crucial influences on Witting’s writing. These are: first, a childhood during which she was denied love and suffered abuse especially from her mother; second, exploitation at the University of Sydney by a group of male writers; third, her teaching career which spanned forty years; fourth, her isolation and alienation in country towns where she was posted as a teacher; fifth, the effects of tuberculosis and her incarceration in a tuberculosis sanatorium; sixth, her submersion into the life of a suburban housewife and finally, the last decade of her life, when over the age of seventy, Witting finally received recognition of the worth of her writing and was afforded considerable acclaim. These seven circumstances are utilised as the organising mechanism for the literary biography. Each chapter is underpinned by one of the aforementioned seven periods in Witting’s life, while unique primary sources such as transcripts of interviews with Witting and letters received from her inform the analysis. The thesis also interrogates the factors which contributed to the relative lack of recognition of Witting’s talent and potential until the last decade of her life.


Principal supervisor

Susan Kossew

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts