About Looking Ahead to the 1950s


This lecture is part of the series Feeble or forceful? Reappraising the 1950s in Australian performance, convened by Dr Chris Hay. Please register below based on if you would like to attend in-person or online. 

Invariably (and naturally) the 1950s are a decade we turn back to. In Australian theatre, they are seen as constituting a “beginning” of one sort or another. In this talk, I position them as years that have yet to happen, revisiting the theatre of the 1930s and 1940s to look ahead to an as-yet undisclosed future. I ask what impact the experiences of this earlier period had on the historical framing of the 1950s as we receive this today? By seeing the social imaginary of the 1950s as a construct of the interwar and war years, we can link it to a number of historical experiences typically discussed as lying ‘after’ it, such as the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the advent of the atomic bomb.  I explore these links using the concept of “hauntology” in both the Derridean sense, of spectral traces of the past found in the future, and in Mark Fisher’s interpretation of a “lost future”, where longing may be felt for a future that has been forgone or yet to appear (“a relation to what is no longer or not yet”). Looking ahead to the 1950s was an exercise in prospection for the artists of the 1930s and 1940s that we must grasp in its full generative power.  The retrospective stability of the decade should be seen as a dramaturgical achievement, not a historical essence.


Date: Friday 17 September 2021

Time: 12–1pm

In-person location: The Writers Studio, Level 6 Michie Building, St Lucia Campus (registrations essential)

Online: Register below for the Zoom link and password

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Julian Meyrick is Professor of Creative Arts at Griffith University. He is literary adviser for the Queensland Theatre, general editor of Currency House’s Platform Paper series, and a board member of Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA) and the Council of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS). His book Australian Theatre after the New Wave: Policy, Subsidy and the Alternative Artist appeared in 2017. What Matters? Talking Value in Australian Culture, co-authored with Robert Phiddian and Tully Barnett, was published by Monash University Publishing in 2018.