War is traditionally considered a male experience. By extension, the genre of war literature is a male-dominated field, and the tale of the battlefield remains the privileged (and only canonised) war story.
In Australia, although women have written extensively about their wartime experiences, their voices have been distinctively silenced. Shooting Blanks at the Anzac Legend calls for a re-definition of war literature to include the numerous voices of women writers, and further recommends a re-reading of Australian national literatures, with women’s war writing foregrounded, to break the hold of a male-dominated literary tradition and pass on a vital, but unexplored, women’s tradition.
Shooting Blanks at the Anzac Legend examines the rich body of World Wars I and II and Vietnam War literature by Australian women, providing the critical attention and treatment that they deserve. Donna Coates records the reaction of Australian women writers to these conflicts, illuminating the complex role of gender in the interpretation of war and in the cultural history of twentieth-century Australia.
By visiting an astonishing number of unfamiliar, non-canonical texts, Shooting Blanks at the Anzac Legend profoundly alters our understanding of how Australian women writers have interpreted war, especially in a nation where the experience of colonising a frontier has spawned enduring myths of identity and statehood.
“This capstone book of Donna Coates’s impressive and historic career will dramatically affect our ideas of the relationship between war and Australian writing. In her consideration of writers of the past such as Mollie Skinner and Lesbia Harford, and her reflections on how contemporary women writers are reframing the legacies of the two World Wars and the Vietnam War, Coates makes visible so much that previous critics had missed. Engagingly written and scrupulous in its attention to the archive, this wide-ranging and vigorously argued book reconceives our ideas of modern Australian literature.”
“Though largely overlooked, stories by women about and in war have always been significant. Donna Coates demonstrates that Australian women’s contribution to war literature in particular is diverse, intriguing, and often unexpected.”