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“Asian expatriate immersion in the later works of Harold Stewart”
thesisposted on 22.02.2017, 00:59 by Mooney, Christopher John
The purpose of this thesis is to locate Harold Stewart (1916-1995) as the historical precursor to three decades of recent Australian poetic responses to Asia. Moving to Kyoto, he immersed himself deeply in Japanese and Chinese classical thought, writing two epics, By the Old Walls of Kyoto and Autumn Landscape Roll. Both are panoramic depictions of Mahayana Buddhism, unprecedented in English-language poetry. The art of meaningful engagement with Asia without repeating patterns of casual acquisitiveness, post-colonial condescension, or fanciful Orientalism is the defining issue addressed through this study of Stewart’s formalist poetic works, many of which remain unpublished, and have been passed over in recent literary criticism. Stewart is remembered for his dual authorship of the ‘Ern Malley’ hoax (1944) rather than for his own epic Asian oeuvre. Just as Stewart’s works stand upon the three pillars of Sino-Japanese philosophy – Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism - the verse narrative component of this project, Foreign Madam and the White Yogi, responds to The Mahabharata and contemporary Hindu, Sikh and Jain traditions. In doing so, these works attempt to serve as bridges toward a transcultural future and expand the relationship between Australian poetics and Asian experience.