“This outstanding book breaks new ground in being the first comprehensive study of Italian-Australian life writing. John Gatt-Rutter’s account of this immensely rich and culturally salient field strikes just the right balance between scholarly sophistication and accessibility for the general reader. The Bilingual Cockatoo guides us deftly through complex terrain but also allows the texts of Italian-Australian life writing to speak vividly for themselves.” Prof. Richard Freadman
This book is a study of biographies and autobiographies of Italian Australians. It looks at full-length life-writing texts, including accounts of the Italian Australian experience of war-time internment, success stories, narratives of trauma and grievance and life narratives as a form of ethnography.
There is a variable zoom focus, ranging from a whole chapter devoted to a single text, to surveys of a dozen or more texts in each of four chapters. A final overview maps out a chronology and typology of Italian Australian life writing relating it to immigrant life writing generally.
Given its topic, the book has a tightly integrated double analytical focus. On the one hand, it studies the textual strategies deployed by the writers, and, on the other hand, it explores the experiential dimensions highlighted by the texts.
The Bilingual Cockatoo is for anyone interested in the life-writing genres as well as Australia’s Italians and, more generally, in ethnic mixing and in the multicultural texture of Australian society. It brings to the reader’s attention a corpus of over 60 book-length biographies and autobiographies, mostly in English, as well as mentioning several collections of shorter oral histories.
About the author: Professor John Gatt-Rutter is an Honorary Associate of La Trobe University (Melbourne) and the Italian Australian Institute, and a world authority on Italo Svevo (the pseudonym of Ettore Schmitz), a close friend of Joyce in the formative years in which Ulysses was written. John Gatt-Rutter has spent a lifetime in Italian studies, especially literary, including 17 years as Vaccari Professor at La Trobe University, and his publications include a literary biography of Italo Svevo. He is now an Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe and at the Italian Australian Institute.