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July 2005 Issue
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Jose's Adelaide return keeps creative energy flowing

 Creative Writing

Acclaimed author Nicholas Jose has been appointed to the prominent position of Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.

The London-born Professor Jose, who obtained his D.Phil. as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, succeeds the inaugural Professor, Tom Shapcott, who has retired.

Professor Jose said he believes the University's program provides a rare space for writers of tomorrow to grow and he is looking forward to having a role in that.

"Part of the success of the University's Creative Writing program is that it builds on the strong traditions of literary culture in South Australia," Professor Jose said.

"That culture is celebrated every two years by Writers' Week, when the world's writers and publishers come to town. But it is sustained the rest of the time by a community of readers, writers and literary folk."

Professor Jose said the University of Adelaide has pioneered one of the best Creative Writing programs in the country and hopes to see those achievements continue.

"The process that allows writers to explore what they're doing in new ways and to develop what they're saying for new audiences, is extremely valuable," he said.

"The program has attracted distinguished writers as participants and encouraged important new work from its students."

Professor Jose cited Anne Bartlett as one of the many success stories. Her debut novel Knitting - written as the major work for her PhD - has just been published to international acclaim.

Professor Jose says this appointment has come at the right time in his career.

"There is nothing so exciting as seeing new work come into being, whether your own or someone else's. That's why I enjoy mentoring. It is a privilege to be part of the journey as the writing develops. I find that the creative energy flows both ways," he said.

"At this stage of my career, with considerable experience in the writing trade from many different angles, I am interested in the wider dynamics of literary creation. That includes new kinds of writing, new kinds of publishing and reading.

"A particular place, a particular community or network, have great potential in that regard, as people start to reclaim their voices, their stories, their own passions and interests. I believe my own writing will be inspired by the writing of those around me in my new position, and I hope it will be mutual."

Professor Jose spent his childhood in Broken Hill, Traralgon, Perth and Adelaide. He studied at the Australian National University before being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in 1974.

He has lived and worked in various parts of Australia, mainly Canberra, and in England, Italy and China. He lectured in English at the Australian National University and was a Cultural Counsellor for the Australian Embassy in Beijing in 1987-90.

Returning to Adelaide is something he is looking forward to.

"South Australia has always been a powerful presence in my writing. My feelings for the place run pretty deep, even though I have not lived in Adelaide since I left school," he said.

"Two of my novels, Paper Nautilus and The Custodians, began with people and stories from when I was growing up. But although there are no doubt some immutable features, South Australia has changed so much over the years that I will be approaching it as much as a new arrival as a familiar, and that will be interesting. I would not be surprised if the inspiration of Adelaide kicks in once again."

Professor Jose was president of International PEN Sydney Centre, 2002-05. He has been a member of the Australia-China Council, and twice a recipient of a Senior Writers' Fellowship from the Australia Council.

Story by Howard Salkow

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