In my search for a better understanding of Christopher Brennan and his poetry I discovered that it is taught at our own University of Sydney. Dr Peter Kirkpatrick of the Australian Literature section of the Department of English includes it in a senior undergrad unit ASLT2622 Australian Modernism. He has kindly provided a selective bibliography on Brennan.
The following is a selective list of books and articles about Christopher Brennan. Anyone seeking a longer list should consult the AustLit database, a comprehensive bibliography of Australian literature, which is freely available through the University Library website if you’re a registered borrower.
Wilkes’s 1953 study is still an important contribution to Brennan scholarship, as is McAuley’s short 1973 book for OUP’s Australian Writers and Their Work series (Brennan was a powerful early influence on McAuley’s own poetry). The standard biography is Clark’s, but he’s inclined to damn his subject with faint praise. Sturm’s introduction to the 1984 UQP Portable Australian Authors selection of CB’s work offers an excellent overview of his life and poetry, and the book is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of some of Brennan’s own essays (those on ‘Symbolism in Nineteenth Century Literature’ are the finest contemporary accounts of the Symboliste project in English). For different reasons, Taylor and Kane repeat Clark’s valuation of Brennan as a flawed poet and failed modernist. My own essay is a response to the latter charge, and Barnes’s essay a response to me.
Barnes’s The Higher Self in Christopher Brennan’s Poems is the major recent study, and a close reading of Poems (1913) through the esoteric tradition. Hawkes’ chapter in his Australian Literature and the Symbolist Movement is the best recent introduction to Brennan’s work and its place in Australian poetry.
Barnes, Katherine. ‘Hearths and Windows: Christopher Brennan’s Interlude Poems and the Question of Modernism’. Southerly 68.3 (2008): 29-55.
Barnes, Katherine. The Higher Self in Christopher Brennan’s Poems: Esotericism, Romanticism, Symbolism. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
Clark, Axel. Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography. Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1980.
Hawke, John. Chapter 1 ‘The Philosophy of Symbolism’. Australian Literature and the Symbolist Movement. Wollongong: University of Wollongong Press, 2009: 12-27.
Kane, Paul. Chapter 5 ‘Christopher Brennan and the Allegory of Poetic Power’. Australian Poetry: Romanticism and Negativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996: 78-94.
Kirkpatrick, Peter. ‘The Wanderer and the Flâneur: Christopher Brennan as Modernist’. Southerly 63.2 (2003): 63-77.
McAuley, James. Christopher Brennan. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1973 (Australian Writers and Their Work).
Sturm, Terry, ed. Christopher Brennan. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1984 (Portable Australian Authors).
Sturm, Terry. ‘The Structure of Brennan’s The Wanderer’. In Bards, Bohemians, and Bookmen: Essays in Australian Literature. Ed. Leon Cantrell. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1976: 114-35.
Taylor, Andrew. Chapter 4 ‘Christopher Brennan’s Double Exile’. Reading Australian Poetry. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1987: 36-52.
Wilkes, G.A. New Perspectives on Brennan’s Poetry. Sydney: Halstead Press, 1953.
Dr Peter Kirkpatrick
Dept of English
University of Sydney