Rhythm as a Metaphor for Presence in Prose Fiction​

Presented by Dr Eliza Robertson

Date: Wednesday 9 May, 2018
Time: 3pm-4pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 


This essay explores the concept of rhythm as a metaphor for presence in literary fiction. To begin, I identify and unpick the prevailing metaphor for presence: voice. Next, I draw upon Jacques Derrida’s critique of Saussurian linguistics to unravel the historic veneration of presence in theories of speech and writing. The third section explores the distinction between conventional and creative metaphors and pitches rhythm as an alternative, more “vital” metaphor for presence in literary prose. Once I lay the theoretical brickwork, I turn to my own creative practice with a discussion of rhythm in relation to my first novel, Demi-Gods. Though I share Derrida’s findings that presence is not necessarily superior to absence, I strive for something like presence in my own work. That is: I aim to produce “vital” writing by way of “animated” language and “lively” characters. To bridge this apparent inconsistency, I argue that vital writing describes a process rather than an end point. I offer the gerund “presenting” as a way to articulate presence as practice, or a work in progress, rather than an objective good on which to hinge a hierarchy of expression.



Eliza Robertson studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and the University of East Anglia, where she received the Man Booker Scholarship and Curtis Brown Prize. In 2013, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and CBC Short Story Prize. Her debut story collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the East Anglia Book Award and selected as a New York Times editor’s choice. In 2017 she won the Australian Book Review Elizabeth Jolley Story Prize.

Dr Eliza Robertson


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 11 March

Online via Zoom

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Friday, 29 April

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A/Prof Shuang Liu

Friday, 13 May


Redefining crisis in museums: insider’s perspectives on digital engagement

Dr Caroline Wilson-Barnao, Craig Middleton (National Museum of Australia), and Lisa Enright

Friday, 3 June

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

A journey through the Australian environmental movement ecosystem

Dr Robyn Gulliver

Friday, 10 June

Online via Zoom

TBADr Alex Bevan



Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)