Stephanie Dowrick - An Introduction
Australia's leading writer on matters of spirituality and personal transformation is without a doubt Stephanie Dowrick. Her lyrical and frequently literary books are also bestsellers, though they sometimes defy categorisation in any of the usual sub-genres of self-help. Drawing from a deep understaining of religion, mythology, psychology and literature, Dowrick's ouvre is pretty much all her own, and is these days increasingly imitated.
Dowrick emerged from a background in publishing, which probably goes some way to explaining the great commercial success of her books. There is no doubt she has a flair for marketing, publicity and promotion which has seen her emerge as one of Australia's leading media commentators. In London in the 70s Stephanie was the founder and first Managing Director of The Women's Press, proving her pedigree as a feminist. It is that aspect of her writing that particularly interests me academically. I think she was among the first in the self-help genre to really speak to an almost exclusively female readership, though never explicitly stating that the books were in any way intended for women only. I am interested in reading the books closely to find out in what ways (if any) feminist messages are encoded.
She later worked as a publisher at Allen & Unwin in Australia. This, too, would be an interesting avenue to explore, though I doubt I'll have the space in my thesis. Maggie Hamilton is another publishing industry executive who went on to write self-help books. And, perhaps obliquely, Rhonda Byrne was a successful television producer before she branched out into the field of personal transformation. It's certainly an interesting phenomenon, and I wonder if I could find parallels in America or the UK.
These days Stephanie Dowrick is one of the pioneers of thr burgeoning Interfaith movement, and noting the religious influences in her books would also be a fascinating endeavour. She has a background in Jungian psychology, and has been deeply influenced by Quaker thought. She also seems to have a clear understanding of both Buddhism and Sufism, which speaks to the extrodinary depth of her learning and her spiritual understanding.
I plan on bringing you a few little potted analyses of some of Stephanie Dowrick's books as I slowly piece together my PhD thesis. I hope you'll find them as interesting as I do.