Island Twelve – Isle of

the Citadels of Learning
(Extract from: Muse of the Long Haul Thirty-One Isles of the Creative
Imagination)

Copyright, Dr Ian Irvine, 2013 all rights reserved. All short extracts from the texts discussed are
acknowledged and used under fair usage related to ‘review’ and theoretical ‘critique’ under
international copyright law.
Images: both images of teaching and learning at Medieval universities are in the public domain
th
internationally. The first dates from the second half of the 14 century. The second, depicting students
taking a course in philosophy at a Paris University, also dates from the 14th century.
Publisher: Mercurius Press, Australia, 2013. NB: This piece is published at Scribd as part of a series
drawn from the soon to be print published non-fiction book on experiential poetics entitled: Muse of
the Long Haul: Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination.

Island Twelve – Isle of the Citadels of Learning
Ha! what a sudden rapture leaps from this
I view, through all my senses swiftly flowing!
I feel a youthful, holy, vital bliss
In every vein and fibre newly glowing. 1

I am a salmon in the pool2

Mabon is a mysterious figure in ancient Welsh storytelling. The Mabinogion is named after
him and contains twelve ancient British stories (since Lady Charlotte Guest’s version of
1838-49). The original 12th century Mabinogi (as found for example in the Red Book of
Hergest and the White Book of Rhyderch) contained only four tales (or branches). The
various stories and characters in the romance are rumoured to have Celtic pagan origins
Most commentators these days, for example, believe that Mabon was connected to the
god Maponos (a Romano-British—and perhaps Gaulish—deity), who took the human form
of a ‘divine youth’ and presided over music, poetry and perhaps love. Mabon is also linked to
the God Apollo and perhaps to the Irish god Angus Og—the closest the Irish tradition comes
to a male love god.
One of my favourite Welsh stories, Culhwch and Olwen, appears in the Mabinogion
and concerns the search to free Mabon, the divine youth. Since the name Mabon had ancient
connections to poetry, music and love this story may simultaneously be an artistic, creative
search—a search for a certain type of knowledge. Mabon’s problem is that he’s been
imprisoned since being stolen from his mother Modron only three days after his birth.
Culhwch has been set a series of almost impossible tasks by the giant Yspaddaden and
requires the aid of Mabon. First however, the youth, who has been lost since the beginning of
time, must be found. Arthur now enters the tale and authorises a search by sending his
henchmen to discourse with the wisest and most ancient animals of Britain. The theme of
totemic animals with a subtext of Celtic meta-psychoses enters the tale, and the men are led
via what Caitlin Matthews calls ‘a totemic chain’ that includes learned discussions with wise
and ancient animals such as Ousel Cilgwri a blackbird, the Stag of Redynvre, the Owl of
Cwm Cawlwyd, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy and eventually the most ancient animal of all the
Salmon of Llyn Llwy. Having been around since the beginning time Llyn Llwy recalls where
Mabon is imprisoned and after Arthur and his men attack a stronghold in Gloucester Mabon
is, paradoxically, freed by the wisdom of great age. Also somewhat paradoxically he is both
the oldest man alive and the very incarnation of youthfulness.
What has long fascinated me about this story is the strange convergence of wisdom,
great age and youthfulness that is its central theme. The salmon, one of my favourite animals
and very much a symbol of inspiration and knowledge in Celtic traditions, also features in the
boyhood exploits of the Irish hero-poet Finn. The salmon of Fec’s Pool on the Boyne river
was desired by the poet Finneces because after eating it ‘nothing would remain unknown to
him’ (the salmon being such a wise animal), but as with the Welsh Taliesin story the young
Finn (then called Demne) accidentally burns his thumb whilst cooking the captured beast and
thus puts the affected member in his mouth to sooth the pain. Finneces, recognising that the
salmon is for Finn, orders the boy to eat the salmon and the boy then receives immense
wisdom and inspiration.
When I returned to study at the age of 26 I decided to do a humanities degree. The idea was
1
2

Goethe, Faust, lines 430-433, p.29, Sphere Books, 1974. trans: Bayard Taylor.
From The Song of Amairgin, as quoted in Robert Graves, The White Goddess, p. 203.

to further my understanding of the cultural background to creative arts such as music, poetry,
art and fiction writing. At the time I had no real idea what the study might lead to—perhaps a
career as an English teacher? I still felt a long way from my modest late teenage dream of
being able to make a living engaged at some level with the writing or musical worlds. I had a
badly written novel in a suitcase, some scribbled and unedited poems in a plastic bag and a
bunch of badly performed songs sitting on tapes in a battered cardboard box. The sum total of
my progress toward a life in the arts!
The somewhat scrambled and eccentric musings of The White Goddess were no
longer enough to satisfy my thirst for knowledge though in a sense this was the moment I
took seriously Graves’ advice to poets and creative people to learn everything they can about
ancient mythologies, history, philosophy and literature. The days were numbered for my own
‘youth’ and in a sense I realised that through a variety of circumstances, some internal, some
external, I’d missed out on much of it—this is to say I hadn’t really lived it. In a sense then it
was the god Mabon (literally: lost youth) that presided over that first year of my course. In
another important sense the knowledge I was seeking from my lecturers (access to an
authentic experience of my youth before it was too late) was not unrelated to the knowledge
Arthur’s men were seeking from the various wise and ancient animals of Ireland—though of
course my lecturers were unashamedly human!
I enrolled in the first year of my BA Humanities at La Trobe University Bendigo
(though it had a different name back then) in March of 1990. As it turned out the students of
my particular year were probably as eccentric as the lecturers. Having only ever studied
commerce at University (Auckland University in 1982-83) I was, to say the least, unprepared
for the learning experience I was about to encounter at the Bendigo campus. It was a ‘brave
new world’ indeed for someone coming out of several years of Robinson Crusoe style
isolation in the wilds of Northern Victoria—raising a child, occasionally coming to Bendigo
to primal, growing grapes and vegetables and basically doing an ostrich act with regard to the
modern world.
From the perspective of the poet-writer I’ve become there was probably no better
undergraduate education. The lecturers were knowledgeable, committed to their disciplines
and, most importantly, dedicated to providing their students with a thorough grounding in
three particular disciplines: history, philosophy and literature/film studies. A subject area
named ‘Studies in Western Traditions’ says it all in regard to the miss-match between this
bizarre outpost of an English style humanities education and the typical late 80s early 90s
Australian university English or Cultural Studies department’s with its diet of psychoanalytic,
postmodern, post-colonial, feminist, queer and Western Marxist theorising. Most of these
‘perspectives’ were simply ignored in our department—though one could study such theories
with the social science lecturers on ‘the second floor’. My Gravesian idealisation of poetry
(over theory) as well as an awareness of certain gaps in learning made me stick with the
humanities group for my undergraduate and honors years. Nevertheless, given my fascination
with psychoanalysis, existentialism, socialism, environmentalism and feminism (see other
Islands in this book) I ended up arguing a lot with the lecturers.
On the other hand there were at least two poets on staff—Clive Faust and Rod
Blackhirst—and a number of others refreshingly opposed to turning poets and other creative
artists into extensions of theory. I guess I learnt a great deal about the ‘dead white males’ of
Western cultural history from the various lecturers in the department.
Although I ended up with a major in literature it was the SWT and History majors that
taught me the most. Although the emphasis was on Western cultural history Harry
Oldmeadow and Rod Blackhirst provided excellent groundings in Eastern traditions and
Islam respectively. Mircea Eliade, Plato and the Eastern Traditionalists dominated the
‘religious studies’ subtext to SWT and Philosophy—and all of this was mostly new to me.

My self-appointed task, as I remember it at the time, was to integrate some of this knew
knowledge with, in particular, the Jungian, Groffian and Gravesian models I’d spent so much
time absorbing. Though there were some cross-overs the fit was, to say the least, somewhat
forced. Eliade should have been the bridge between my intellectual past and the future, but by
the time I came across him I’d had enough of ‘transcendence’ and ‘monotheism’ and came
close to feeling that the course was religious brainwashing masquerading as learning. By
second year I was seeking refuge in essay topics that kept me off the radar so to speak—
nevertheless, even then I couldn’t bring myself to migrate to the social science department.
Besides, the alternative rocker dream was taking off and I was kind of sleepy in class. I was
also in love again and under pressure to provide financially for my two children who were
living with their mother in NZ—upon her return to NZ my ex declared she was pregnant
again, and that the child was mine. There was a lot on my plate by mid-1991 and for that year
at least the lectures represented a safe place to doze and day-dream, and to find occasional
inspiration for songs and poems.
I’d decided to avoid philosophy opting instead, by second year, for a literature major
and a mini-history thesis on the Malleus Malificarum (The Hammer of Witches) and its
influence on the witch-hunts. Bob Tucker, the only post-enlightenment philosopher on staff,
and Rod Blackhirst, due to his open-minded approach, were my supervisors. The SWT units
in the course layered historical and cultural epochs one on top of the other like lego blocks.
Grudgingly at the time, appreciatively much later, I could see the logic behind the course
structure. More importantly the SWT philosophy/ history/ literature core provided me with a
solid base upon which to rebel intelligently later—I’ve noticed that many ‘bitsy educated’
BA people graduating from major universities often lack this base. It’s not uncommon these
days to come across BA students who are more or less ignorant of vast areas of Western
cultural history—never mind other traditions—and proud of it!
In retrospect Harry Oldmeadow and, strangely enough, Clive Faust gave me the
greatest opportunity for intellectual and creative growth. Harry took indigenous cultures
seriously and had obviously struggled with the similarities and points of discord between the
spiritualities of these traditions and the spiritualities of the world’s major non-immanent
religions. Harry also knew a great deal about the various modern and post-modern ideologies
and philosophies. He also enjoyed a good argument—indeed everybody in the department
loved a good argument!—but I always felt that he assessed my work fairly, regardless of the
degree to which my perspective agreed with or diverged from his own.
Clive Faust was, by that time, close to retirement. He had legendary status among the
students. It was respectfully whispered that he was much published as a poet on the East
Coast of the US and had married (for a short period only) culture analyst Beatrice Faust on a
whim. Years after he retired I’d occasionally chat to him on the streets of Bendigo—although
fairly pessimistic by nature he always stopped to chat before drifting off into musings on
some kind of philosophical problem. When I played club cricket for a year in the mid-nineties
Clive would walk laps of the field with dumb-bells, saying hello every now and then as he
passed. The image didn’t quite fit with the man who had delivered profoundly meandering,
disquieting and intriguing lectures on symbolism, surrealism, dada, futurism, imagism, etc. in
my third year of studies. During the classes he seemed to circle a phenomenon, exploring it
from different (often obscure) philosophical or cultural perspectives, occasionally snorting
knowingly to himself, other times freezing completely in an attempt to find just the right
words. Sometimes he simply trailed off into nothingness, not bothering to end a train of
thought. Unlike the other lecturers who delivered carefully thought out classes clearly related
to the course outline, Clive seemed to do his thinking in the class itself—either that or he
couldn’t resist departing from his set lecture notes to address whatever questions occurred to
him during the analysis of an art work or arose due to a particularly resonant line from

Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen. Indeed Clive introduced me to Baudelaire and I have loved the
Frenchman’s work ever after.
Morrie Nestor’s literature classes also helped me to develop as a writer. He taught
close analysis of the text and attention to any historic details that might be relevant to the
work. His seriousness regarding the value of literature both attracted me and put me off—
overall, I think, given the indifference I’d encountered out in the world, his approach was
good for me at the time—and I guess very Leavisite in its way. He was also very generous
with his time and routinely assisted students struggling with grammar and expression. Harry
and Morrie, and two other lecturers, John Penwill and Al Gabay (a historian) also forced me
to confront the fact that I had a lot to learn when it came to essay writing (and thus about
writing generally). Like every student I look back on those first and second year essays with
some embarrassment. At the time boundless self-delusion told me that each essay I wrote was
‘brilliant’. My retrospective awareness of amateurism is amplified by the fact that I was
typing them in the time just before the widespread use of word processors. By 1993
computers were everywhere and despite my poverty I eventually bit the bullet and bought one
of the beasties. Computers got rid of many a student’s spelling, grammar and word-usage
problems overnight.
The most performative and inspirational lecturer, and the one least committed to
standard academic protocols, was Roger Sworder. His upper class English intonations
reminded everyone of Prince Charles. Roger, however, was no staid figure pontificating
drearily on the status quo. His great passions were (and are) Homer, Plato and Blake. He had
very little tolerance for ‘reason’, ‘secularism’, ‘the Enlightenment’ and ‘theory’ all of which
appeared to bore him. He was much more interested in inspiration, the Dionysian and the
mythic. He also seemed to love the polytheistic deities of ancient Greece in particular. We
should have had a lot in common, but I found his tendency to analyse everything in terms of
Platonic ‘ideas’ reductionist despite enjoying the pure theatricality of many of his classes. His
lectures were conducted like ‘Platonic discourses’, which I found perfectly suited to my own
learning style, and eventually my own teaching style. He recited memorised poetry at the
drop of a hat, teased the students about the things they didn’t know (but thought they knew)
and generally enjoyed deconstructing the ‘modern’ paradigms we unconsciously lived by.
His catch-phrases were ‘the sacred’ and ‘the tradition’—strange that second phrase coming
from a man devoted to the revolutionary Blake!
The students of my year, however, were as intellectually passionate and eccentric as
their lecturers. Looking back my experiences with them contributed at least as much to my
development as a writer and creative thinker as the more formal classes delivered by the
lecturers. The relational dimension to learning —the physical presence in a classroom of real
students and teachers—is increasingly disowned by government technocrats. Their ideal
learning environment involves substituting technology, as much as possible for teachers: sit
at home, communicate with no one (except by electronic media) and you too can experience
the new university. It is a sad fact that whereas we had living, foiblesome, passionate lecturers
delivering our various classes, around twenty years later, in 2013, many La Trobe University
Bendigo literature students no longer encounter their lecturer in the flesh at all. Instead they
assemble in a classroom twice a week to view a DVD up-loaded overnight from the
Bundoora campus. A ‘technician’ switches the DVD on and the ‘class’ begins. After a few
weeks many students stop turning up, content to watch their ‘lectures’ online. Before long
even the one hour tutorial will become a POD broadcast—and the university bureaucrats and
government people will pat themselves on the back for saving ‘taxpayer’s money’. Needless
to say, the cost to students of these ‘disembodied courses’ remains as expensive as oncampus delivery—the fees, government grants, etc. are obviously going somewhere but it
isn’t to the increasingly insecure (in terms of employment) teaching staff.

In my very first class at La trobe I met John Holton. Now an established writer, poet and
editor he’s become a life-long friend. We bonded over all things Celtic, a working class
perspective on the world, a shared sense of humour (and love of the absurd in human nature),
a love of travel and perhaps most of all a shared passion for music and poetry. In the same
evening class I also met a thin, dark haired fellow called Alan Simmonds. What impressed
me most about ‘Al’ was his willingness to critique openly the religious perspectives of some
of the lecturers. In doing this however, he had an intellectual incisiveness I’d never really
encountered before. I still call him ‘the philosopher’ even though he’s sworn off the
discipline since the late 90s. Though at the time our politics diverged I guess I also admired
his refusal to accept ideologically motivated hog-wash masquerading as scholarship. I had to
think sharp around him and enjoyed the intellectual tussles.
Others too were important in that first year—Scott Hunt, a graphic designer and
fellow devotee of alternative rock music who eventually mixed for Goya’s Child (the band I
helped form). I also came across Peter Pascoe, radio announcer, collector of rare comics,
devotee of heavy metal and ‘duff-duff’ music and part-time scholar of magic, alchemy and
the Kabbalah. I remember many good natured arguments with Peter concerning: the literary
value of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the cultural contribution of Sir James Frazer’s The
Golden Bough (I argued for its value despite the dated colonialist attitude it espoused), the
worth of Alistair Crowley’s contribution to the occult tradition and finally, and most often,
the relative revolutionary value of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’! I also became friends with a
well-dressed, rather self-effacing mature age student named James Mannix. He was a thin
fellow of average height with a serious but friendly way about him. He was also an
exceptional classical guitarist and all-round musician. We eventually formed a song-writing
duo and the once devoted student of Bach and Mozart gradually transformed into the lead
guitarist of Goya’s Child the alternative rock band he and I formed in late 1991.
Then there was Wayne Blakely, a tall, darkly dressed and charming Christian who
also liked music—often to the point of carrying a guitar with him to class. He was not above
using it to charm the lasses like some kind of medieval troubadour. He also liked to dress up
in an affected manner, almost like a flaneur, sometimes appearing with short-cropped blonde
hair, business briefcase and immaculate suit, others times with bohemian hat, black collared
shirt, black jeans and jet black (always shiny as I recall) shoes. One day he turned up dressed
like Dr Livingston—he seemed about to explore the African interior complete with khaki
shorts, ironed light khaki collared shirt, desert water-bottles, Crocodile Dundee knife holster
(but no knife) and colonialist hard-hat. Quite a sight while you were trying to concentrate on
a lecture about Goethe or Keats.3
Overall the course was exactly what I needed at that particular point in my
development as a creative person. It reawakened in me a thirst for learning that eventually led
to a meaningful, perhaps life-long, vocation—for this gift I am eternally grateful.
Inspired by my lecturers at La Trobe I soon decided that I too wanted to become an
academic—probably teaching literature or history, but perhaps teaching primordial religious
traditions. By December 1993 I had a first class honours degree and a scholarship to study
toward a PhD. On the practical level I finally had money for maintenance and air-fares to NZ.
I remember clearly the moment I became ‘motivated’ to actually do something with my life.
It was in the middle of my honours year (1993). I received an essay back from John Penwill,
3

During my studies, particularly as I entered second year single and traumatised after the break-up of my
relationship of six years, I gradually got to know others who became very important to my personal
development—Gareth Williams, Mary Katai, Tim Jenkyns, Michelle Stadler, Rebecca Pilley, Karen Fry, Sara
Gormley, Jenny Gray and Claudette among many others. On other ‘Isles’ I’ll also have cause to discuss some of
the people I met at that time through Central Victoria’s music, arts and performance poetry sub-cultures.

as hard a task-master in terms of grammar and clarity of expression as one is ever likely to
meet (for a long time he edited a journal on Roman culture and history). I’d decided to write
on the ‘silver’ poets of the Roman period. I’d done pretty well with an essay on Ovid’s
Metamorphoses and had done okay in the medieval unit with essays on More’s Utopia and
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I expected to be roasted by John given my second essay was on
one of his pet topics. Surprisingly he gave it a grade of 96%—it took me a day or two to
realise I was now in the running for an MA or PhD scholarship. The grade also made me
realise I was within sight of an academic ‘job’ of sorts, and encouraged me to do everything I
could to make my thesis on Graves’ The White Goddess as good as possible.
By the time Sue and I landed in Indonesia at the start of a three and half month
backpacking holiday, which also included visits to family in the UK, the US and NZ, I
couldn’t bear to pick up a book. I was mentally exhausted and hadn’t slept for what seemed
like a week due to trying to get the thesis edited and ready for submission to examiners.
Thankfully, John Penwill had given me access to his office computer—a life saver. Lying in
some peaceful hotel in Sanur, Bali a few days later, smelling the frangipani and drinking
copious amounts of bottled water it struck me that it had been some years since I’d given
everything I had to a vocational pursuit. How had a team of eccentrics whom I mostly
disagreed with managed to achieve this victory over my once apparently entrenched apathy
towards all things ‘vocational’?
Summary: Creativity and the University
I still think a quality, ‘temporally layered’, BA is essential (whether through formal study or a
personal study program) to any serious apprentice writer or poet. I had many quibbles with
the elitist structure of the La Trobe, Bendigo BA program, but in truth my ideal degree would
have discarded very little whilst adding a great deal. My ideal ‘writer’s’ BA is about ten years
long, includes studies of the various theories (psychoanalytic, feminist, Western Marxist, etc),
whole units on Sumerian, Egyptian, Celtic, Norse, Maori, Aboriginal, Buddhist, Taoist, etc.
etc. religion and culture, as well as more units on modernist and postmodernist avant garde
literary movements, e.g. the L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poets, the Deep Imagists and
Ethnopoeticists, the Imagists, the Objectivists, the Projectivists, and so on and on (I’m still
doing that degree!).
The experience of being paid by the government to study and debate philosophy, literature,
history, politics, psychology, art, ideology, etc. can be truly transformative for would-be
writers and artists. Apart from forcing them to test their own ideas against ‘canonical’ giants,
the comradeship of fellow thinkers and creatives is invaluable. It was a charmed time for me
personally, exciting and profoundly liberating. I was in the right place at the right time. Here
finally were people who shared my passion for ideas and creativity.
In terms of nurturing writers and artists capable of contributing meaningfully to the
evolutionary flexibility of a people (maybe even of the species) I’d argue that a university
experience studying a range of humanities and social sciences subjects is invaluable.
However, course content is only ever part of the equation; how the learning experience is
embedded in more informal creative sub-cultures, the ‘relational environment’ if you like,
represents the crucial ‘X’ factor. If we view universities merely as ‘providers of educational
products’ (thus permitting without challenge the Neo-Liberal social and economic agenda to
colonise one of the most important areas of community infrastructure), they are likely to
become sclerotic anti-democratic places—elitist, culturally inflexible, overly bureaucratic,
devoid of life and colour. Indeed precisely this disease is currently afflicting Australian
Universities. In the pig-swill greed of the early 2000s, when governments and senior figures

in both the TAFE and University sectors suddenly realised the money that could be
transferred from teachers and students to management hierarchies and ‘private providers’, the
goal of running down the nation’s public ‘knowledge capital’ became the unstated primary
goal. These political and managerial elites advanced their aims management techniques that
promoted: 1) mass redundancies of tenured staff; 2) increased job insecurity among
academics and teachers through labour casualisation (and use of short term contracts); 3) the
introduction of Kafkaesque cultures of ‘compliance’ (leading to bureaucracy overload that
paradoxically detracted from teaching excellence) and, finally, 4) the forced introduction of
pedagogically unsound teacher delivery models. All of this occurred whilst study fees (and
thus student debt) climbed to unsustainable levels.
If such a diseased tertiary education culture (in universities and TAFES) is allowed to
continue for much longer in the creative arts, humanities and social sciences our leaders will
have gone a long way toward killing off the collective creativity (and thus ‘evolutionary
flexibility’) of the Australian people. Similar trends are, however, evident in many other
Western countries. The age of the uncreative automaton will be upon us. The disciplines
attached to the Humanities, Social Sciences and Creative Arts are the engine of a culture’s
capacity to make sense of itself to itself; they allow a culture to place itself meaningfully in
time and space and to meditate creatively on what really matters—what is worth pursuing and
what is not. Lose this ‘engine’ and a culture risks floating aimlessly in the abyss of the eternal
present, and beset on all sides by ceaseless disconnected ‘particulars’ and destructive
presences that come and go like apparitions in a permanent nightmare. The great ‘epidemics’
of the 20th century were actually ‘cultural epidemics’—tens of millions of people lost their
lives or lived significantly diminished lives due to ‘diseased paradigms’—fascism,
authoritarian communism, etc. Creative arts, humanities and social science educators are
‘culture doctors’, remove their capacity to mediate, make sense of challenges and innovate
where needed and the species loses a major bulwark against collective inhumanity.
Unfortunately the fate of La Trobe University (Bendigo’s) once integrated Bachelor of Arts
(Humanities) program in recent years is a powerful symbol of the triumph of the above
nefarious agendas. The Humanities program I completed, eventually to PhD level, instead of
expanding and thriving (allowing for more subject choices, diversity of opinion) etc. has been
savagely attacked on all fronts. La Trobe Bundoora gradually transferred power over the
direction of Bendigo programs out of the hand of local Bendigo academics back to
Melbourne—an arrogant patently political and economic decision worthy of any typical 19th
century colonial administrator. The Humanities, Social Science and Creative Arts staff that
gave so much to the often remote Central and Northern Victorian communities they served
were casualised and disempowered at a staggering rate. Units were cut, pushed online or
transferred to Bundoora and overall degree integrity (inter-discipline communication)
destroyed—even as student fees increased. Academic work-loads skyrocketed, along with
compliance requirements. The Honors, MA and PhD programs set up by the previous
generation of academics are being gradually dismantled as I write. All in all our once
internationally recognised programs have been subjected to a systematised Neo-Liberal
coupe-d’etat that only serves to destroy opportunity and promote cultural impoverishment
across Central and Northern Victoria.
Although the political and administrative perpetrators of this coup have been good at
P.R. spin there are a number of international statistics that put the lie to what they’ve been
saying. In 2005 La Trobe University’s Arts & Humanities programs ranked 23rd best in the
world—an amazing achievement for a non-‘sand-stone’ Australian University. The
University itself was ranked 98th in the world—again, an excellent achievement. In 2012-13
La Trobe was ranked 375th according to QS World University Rankings and between 401-500

in 2012 by the Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking system. The internationally respected Times
Higher Education World University Rankings system of 2012–2013 did not even place La
Trobe among the top 400—where it languishes on their quality scale is thus unclear from a
brief web-search. On average these statistics represent a global ranking drop of around 400
places over 6 years. Such figures as I can find on global ‘Humanities and Creative Arts’
rankings give La Trobe a ranking of 150-200 these days and falling (recall it was in the top
25 in the world in 2005-6). The figures are made worse by the fact that unlike other countries
Australia came through the GFC relatively unscathed—if a University like La Trobe drops
400 places during a period of economic prosperity heaven help it and University’s like it if
Australia enters a serious recession.
Unfortunately, such staggering political and administrative incompetence seems to be
viewed as an administrative triumph among politicians, government bureaucrats and higher
education managers safely cocooned in hyper-capitalist education paradigms.
To return briefly to the story of Mabon that opened this chapter, we might ask: what has
become of the wise old Salmon of Llyn Llwy (who gave so much succour to Arthur’s men as
they searched for Mabon) in Australian Universities today? The answer, is that though he’s
been caught, gutted and prepared for the plate, the knowledge-hungry youth of Australia are
not in line for a piece of his great ‘wisdom and inspiration’. Dollar conscious university
administrators, private educators and ideology-driven politicians are there already—muddy
hooves on the table.

Author Bio (as at May 2013)
Dr. Ian Irvine (Hobson) is an Australian-based
poet/lyricist, writer and non-fiction writer. His work has
featured in publications as diverse as Humanitas (USA),
The Antigonish Review (Canada), Tears in the Fence
(UK), Linq (Australia) and Takahe (NZ), as well as in a
number of Australian national poetry anthologies: Best
Australian Poems 2005 (Black Ink Books) and Agenda:
‘Australian Edition’, 2005. He is the author of three
books and co-editor of three journals and currently
teaches in the Professional Writing and Editing program
at BRIT (Bendigo, Australia) as well as the same program at Victoria University, St. Albans,
Melbourne. He has also taught history and social theory at La Trobe University (Bendigo,
Australia) and holds a PhD for his work on creative, normative and dysfunctional forms of
alienation and morbid ennui.

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