The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Below is an archive of CCCS Public Lectures delivered in 2007, along with their original abstracts. Audio files are provided for lectures that were recorded. For further information on any of these lectures, please contact CCCS Admin.


Professor David Carter: 'Learning to Love the Middlebrow: Middlebrow Book Culture in Australia', 29 March 2007

The term ‘middlebrow’ emerged in Britain and the USA in the 1920s to describe cultural tastes that were neither avant-garde nor merely popular, and cultural forms which depended upon commercial markets but also made a claim on cultural quality. Although the term itself is an artefact of its period, the mid-twentieth century, with no more substance than its partners, ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’, it arose in response to real changes in cultural structures under the twin pressures of high modernity and new forms of urban popular culture (and largely disappeared from use in the 1960s). Further it gave rise to new kinds of cultural and literary institutions, and new ‘bookish’ dispositions. Histories of middlebrow book culture have been written for both Britain and the USA, in both cases focused almost entirely on their ‘national markets and domestic institutions. But what of the Australian case, where book culture was largely dependent on imported products? This lecture will examine whether the institutions of and arguments around the middlebrow emerged in Australia, if so what forms they took, and how a cultural history conducted through the idea of the middlebrow might change our understanding of Australian culture. Thinking through the middlebrow offers new perspectives on our understandings of the popular, on Australia’s involvement in transnational cultural networks, on national culture and modernity. The lecture will also look at contemporary book cultures in Australia where certain attributes of middlebrow culture seem to be emerging again — as is the use of the term itself.

Introduction: Prof Graeme Turner [1.4 mb]
Lecture Part One [3.7 mb]
Lecture Part Two [5.2 mb]
Lecture Part Three [5.7 mb]
Lecture Part Four [5.9 mb]


Professor Peter Spearritt: 'The 200 Kilometre City: The Fate of the South-east Queensland', 19 April 2007

Since the early 1950s the coastal zone of SEQ has seen more urban development than any other coastal area in Australia. Only tiny portions of the coast are preserved in national parks or coastal reserves. Small towns have been swallowed up in linear urbanisation from Noosa to the Tweed River and beyond. The response of both state and local government has been to create a regional statutory plan which has guaranteed developers new open field sites to the west and offered up large swathes of the inner suburbs to medium and high density redevelopment. A bonanza for developers, builders and hopeful investors. Densification has done nothing for housing affordability, merely hastened the gentrification of the inner suburbs.

Who are the beneficiaries? Both the ALP and the coalition parties draw on the property industry for substantial electoral funds. Developers who have read the market well have made money and gone on to the next site. But they are building in an increasingly degraded environment. Our water supply is perilously low, yet our power stations still use potable water. Our bays and streams are under threat. Recycling is belatedly on the horizon, but the bulk of BCC, state government and private investment is still going into new roads and tunnels, predicated on cheap oil and a city determined to encourage motorists to travel everywhere at speed. Children, pedestrians and the aged are residual beings. Public transport usage in much of the region is woefully low, less than two per cent of all trips on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. This doesn't sound like a sustainable 21st century city and it isn't.


Mr Peter Manning: 'Media and the University', 24 May 2007

Media power grows apace in our society. Many Australian cities are one-newspaper sites and restrictions on cross-media ownership are being lifted. On the other hand, new digital media outlets are also spreading. Is the space for democratic conversation about public policy narrowing or widening? In this context, with financial pressures on university budgets increasing, many university presidents are complaining of threats to universities' independence as a communities of scholars.  This lecture will posit that the media and the university are heading in different directions but, as the legacy of the great Jewish intellectual Henry Mayer would show, this need not be so.

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [482kb]
Introduction: Professor Tom O'Regan [5mb]
Lecture Part One [5.1mb]
Lecture Part Two [4.2mb]
Lecture Part Three [5.8mb]
Lecture Part Four [6.1mb]


Dr Venero Armanno: 'Under the Volcano', 23 August 2007

In 2001 Dr Armanno's  sixth novel, The Volcano, was published, but the years leading up to it seeing the light of day involved more than just sitting down and writing the story. The germinal idea for the book came to him in the late 80s and its first form was actually as a screenplay written in 1991/1992– a 6 hour, three part screenplay that was, according to Dr Armanno, "never going to get made".

"The screenplay taught me a few things: one, I had about twenty minutes of a good idea, the rest was pretty bad, and two, I knew far too little about Sicily and Italy’s socio-economic evolution, the development of Brisbane as a city, and the experiences of European migrants in their journey to Australia".

According to Dr Armanno these three areas of ignorance led to years of research, which relied on traditional library methods, the Internet, field trips, and many, many conversations with people who were “there”. The oral histrories and personal stories of these individuals turned out to be the most useful in the creative development of the eventual book; in Dr Armanno's lecture he will discuss how fact, fiction and mythology combined to help him finally bring The Volcano to fruition.
Lecture Part One [5.5 mb]
Lecture Part Two [6.9 mb]
Lecture Part Three [5.9 mb]
Lecture Part Four [4.6 mb]


Dr Elizabeth Stephens: 'Bodies as Public Spectacles: From the Popular Anatomy Museum to the Freak Show', 1 November 2007

The last decade has witnessed an enormous surge of popular interest in touring anatomical exhibitions such as Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds, Bodies: Revealed and The Amazing Human Body. Such collections are, this lecture will show, merely the most recent incarnation of a centuries-old tradition that has now been widely forgotten.  From the late eighteenth century until the turn of the twentieth, exhibitions featuring anatomical displays of human bodies were enormously popular with a wide range of audiences, marketed as teaching facilities for medical professionals, diversionary entertainments for the affluent, and educational opportunities for the working classes. This lecture will examine the knowledges about the body (re)produced in and by such exhibitions. It will argue that the apparent devolution of popular anatomy museums, as they transformed first into dime museums and then into freakshows, represents not their cultural marginalisation but rather their increasing importance to normative and dominant assumptions about the body.
Through analyses of the displays, descriptive catalogues, handbooks and advertising material produced by anatomical museums over the last two centuries, Dr Stephens will examine the way their exhibitions trained audiences to view the body and its health as something precarious, which needed to be constantly monitored and improved. This cultivation of a healthy body was constituted as a moral as well as a medical imperative, and it is in this respect that these exhibitions have continued to inform representations of, and normative ideas about, the body into the twenty-first century.

Introduction: Prof Graeme Turner [1.3 mb]
Lecture Part One [3.6 mb]
Lecture Part Two [4.5 mb]
Lecture Part Three [4.2 mb]
Lecture Part Four [4.6 mb]