The Novel, Sense-Making, and Mao

Writing and Society Research Centre
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sydney Review of Books, 2015
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There was a in-joke floating around the University of Sydney when I was an arts student in the early 1980s that is telling of the times. It went something like this: Sydney has only one opera house, only one harbour bridge, but its university has two philosophy departments. One discipline, but two departments? Clearly, despite being friends of wisdom, these philosophers couldn’t agree. Somewhere in the hushed halls of the university’s sandstone towers, well before my time, some kind of schism had occurred, creating the Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy, and the Department of General Philosophy. Looking at the course offerings, even my naïve undergraduate understanding could grasp the difference. Trad Mod was right-wing and conservative, and General was left-wing and progressive. In my first year, I decided to do subjects in both departments.
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