Michael Wilding was born at Worcester, England, and attended the Royal Grammar School, Worcester. He graduated from Oxford University in 1962, attaining a B.A. with first class honours. In 1963 he took up a three year appointment as assistant lecturer at the University of Sydney. In 1967, he returned to England to complete his M.A. at Oxford, and to teach at the University of Birmingham. He then returned to the University of Sydney in 1969, where he held positions as Senior Lecturer (1969-1972), Reader in English (1973-1992), and then Professor of English and Australian Literature (1993-2000). On his retirement he was made professor emeritus.
Within academia, Wilding has had a distinguished career as a literary scholar, critic, and editor. He has written extensively on seventeenth and early eighteenth century English literature (particularly Milton), and since the early 1970s he has built a reputation as an important critic and scholar of Australian literature, with his studies of Marcus Clarke, William Lane and Christina Stead, amongst others. Wilding came to prominence as creative writer in the late 1960s, when he was at the forefront of the 'new writing' movement which emerged in Australia in at that time - and he was one of a group of writers, editors and publishers who were influential in promoting new and experimental writing, and in facilitating the revitalised Australian literary landscape of the late 1960s and 1970s.
Now regarded as one of Australia's leading contemporary authors, he has published over twenty novels and short story collections. His short stories have also been published widely in anthologies of modern Australian writing, and many have appeared in translation. In addition, Wilding has continued his interest in promoting writers and writing. He has edited a number of short story anthologies, in the 1990s he served for a number of years as a Sydney Festival Writers' Week committee member, and he has also been a Chair of the N.S.W. Writers' Centre. He is currently Emeritus Professor in English and Australian Literature at the University of Sydney.