25 Jul Vale Laurie Hergenhan
News of the death of Emeritus Professor Laurie Hergenhan AO will be greeted with sadness by the community of scholars of Australian Literature throughout Australia and overseas. A graduate of Sydney University and London, where he completed a PhD on George Meredith, Laurie taught at the University of Tasmania in the 1960s, then took up a position at the University of Queensland in 1971. Laurie’s formidable contribution to Australian Literary studies is evidenced by his many scholarly publications, including his pioneering work on American critic Hartley Grattan (No Casual Traveller, 1995), on Marcus Clarke’s journalism with the editing of A Colonial City; High and Low Life (1983), and on convict novels, in Unnatural Lives (1983). He was also general editor of the Penguin New Literary History of Australia (1988), and of a widely used teaching anthology, The Australian Short Story. Laurie was the founding editor of the journal Australian Literary Studies, the first issue of which appeared in 1963. His editorship continued until 2002, a marathon contribution to scholarship of the highest standard.
A comment by Professor Peter Edwards, a contemporary of Laurie’s and fellow doctoral student in London in the 1950s, captures the key feature of Laurie’s work in the field. Speaking at a function for Laurie some years ago, he recalled their first meeting, at a social gathering at London University; there, lonely and rather homesick, Peter heard, across the subdued murmur of English conversations, the welcome sound of a “distinctly Australian voice”. It was Laurie’s tireless and passionate promotion of the Australian voice which is his great achievement and his inspiration to others.