Meeting the Unknown: a symposium on the work of Amanda Lohrey

Amanda Lohrey by Richard Bugg
Amanda Lohrey, photographed by Richard Bugg

‘It’s a strange relationship you have with a reader. You don’t see them. You don’t know them. It’s kind of like sending out a message in a bottle. And yet somehow, magically, often that bottle comes back and the conversation goes on. And that, in a way, is the best bit. You meet up with the unknown and you have that rather extraordinary exchange between strangers who, after you’ve shared a text, are no longer strangers.' - Amanda Lohrey, 2021

This symposium on the works of Amanda Lohrey is prompted by the award of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2021, for her eighth novel, The Labyrinth, and recognizes a writing career that extends over more than thirty years. Lohrey's published works include The Morality of Gentlemen (1984), The Reading Group (1988), Camille's Bread (1995), The Philosopher's Doll (2004) Vertigo (2008), Reading Madame Bovary (2010), A Short History of Richard Kline (2015), and The Labyrinth (2020). Her non-fiction works, chiefly essays, include 'The clear voice singing: An essay in secrets' (1997), 'The project of the self under late-capitalism' (2001), 'Groundswell: The rise of the Greens' (2002), 'Writing The Morality of Gentlemen' (2005), 'Celebrating the secular' (2006), and 'Voting for Jesus: the Christian Revival in Australia’ (2006). Lohrey's writing has been generically diverse and formally inventive as it engages with the changing drivers of Australian cultural life. Her characters, and the emotions that shape their present lives and past histories, trace out the intersections between individual and collective, public and private, political and spiritual selves in contemporary Australia. Lohrey's writing is celebrated for its uncompromising clarity. 

The symposium will take place on Thursday 18 November, from 10am-4pm, at Australian National University in Canberra, and also online in hybrid format. The symposium will precede Amanda Lohrey's delivering the ASAL Patron's Lecture, later that day, in the same place. We invite abstracts from Amanda Lohrey's readers that consider any aspect of her writing. There is no list of preferred or identified topics: you are free to consider topics, themes, or preoccupations in her work. You may choose the traditional 20-minute paper format but there is also scope for other kinds of presentations: in conversation, video clips, readings.

Please send abstracts to either Dr Julieanne Lamond, or Dr Jenna Mead,, by Thursday 30 Sept 2021.

Date & time

Thu 18 Nov 2021, 10am–4pm


RSSS 5.72, Australian National University


Amanda Lohrey


Dr Julieanne Lamond


Updated:  11 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications