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Alternative title: Rediscovering Christina Stead
Issue Details: First known date: 2016... vol. 31 no. 6 8 December 2016 of Australian Literary Studies est. 1963 Australian Literary Studies
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Contents

* Contents derived from the 2016 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Introduction, Brigid Rooney , Fiona Morrison , single work criticism
'A Vermeer in the Hayloft' : Christina Stead, Unjust Neglect and Transnational Improprieties of Place and Kind, Fiona Morrison , single work criticism

'Published in New York to muted praise in 1940, The Man Who Loved Children was re-issued in 1965 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston with a long and impassioned introduction by the poet and presiding lion of American literary criticism, Randall Jarrell. Jarrell’s argument about The Man Who Loved Children was anchored in a recognisable rhetorical move – the perspicacious identification of the unjust neglect of a palpable masterpiece, with the powerful argument this supported about issues of canonicity, literary judgement and mid-century American reading. Jarrell’s deployment of the topos of unjust neglect and his concomitant call to universal value was powerfully anticipated by another great American literary critic, Elizabeth Hardwick, ten years earlier (1955). Their arguments were enough to pull Stead into the light of the canon of comparative world literature by the mid 1960s, but not to secure her place there. After repeated recuperations on the grounds of being unjustly unread, Stead’s literary fame now seems to be founded in some part on the phenomenon of being repeatedly unread or proleptically unreadable. This essay addresses the structures and outcomes of this uncanny circulation of reading and non- reading and suggests that a priori questions of category and classification might offer another way of thinking through the activity of rediscovering again the work of Christina Stead.'

Source: Abstract.

Christina Stead’s Earliest Publications, Margaret Harris , single work criticism

'Christina Stead composed her own story of how she came to be published, moving from recollections of childhood precocity to the much repeated anecdotes of her employer Wilhelm Blech (Bill Blake) recognising the power of a draft of Seven Poor Men of Sydney in 1928, and in 1931 the publisher Peter Davies (‘Peter Pan’) agreeing to publish her. Deductions about her earliest writings are frequently made from those of her fictional heroines Louisa Pollit in The Man Who Loved Children (1940) and Teresa Hawkins in For Love Alone (1944). Stead’s earliest known publications appeared in the magazines of her high school and the teacher training college she attended. Some of them are newly identified in my discussion, while those previously known have received only glancing attention. This article discusses these publications, in both poetry and prose, together with her editorial work during her student days in Sydney; and proposes a qualification to the view put by the biographer Hazel Rowley that Stead as a student was a withdrawn outsider. The supplementary collection, ‘Christina Stead’s Student Publications’, provides a document of record by reprinting a story, poems and occasional pieces from those formative student years.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Christina Stead’s Student Publications, Christina Stead , Margaret Harris (editor), selected work poetry short story prose

'This selection of Christina Stead's student publications was edited by Margaret Harris to accompany her essay, 'Christina Stead's Earliest Publications.''

Source: Abstract.

'The Young Man Will Go Far' : Educational Mobility and Christina Stead’s Compositional Practice in the Early 1930s, Michael Ackland , single work criticism

'Education is a recurring concern in Stead's fiction, but nowhere is it more prominent as a theme than in her unpublished and largely ignored manuscript, 'The Young Man Will Go Far'. Coterminous with her early novels, its incomplete segments afford a frank critique of educational and social inequalities and, more importantly, key insights into her motivation and art. Arguably these show the centrality of ideas and political views to her compositions, her skill in dramatizing them, and suggest that ideas were often an unsuspected source of inspiration for her writing.'

Source: Abstract.

The Tank Stream Press : Urban Modernity and Cultural Life in Christina Stead’s Seven Poor Men of Sydney, Meg Brayshaw , single work criticism

'In Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934), Christina Stead evokes the city’s history in her naming of the Tank Stream Press, the novel’s central location. The fresh water Tank Stream assured the colony’s survival in its fledgling years; however, it soon became an open sewer and was buried as a stormwater drain in order to maintain public health. This essay argues that Stead uses the Tank Stream’s watery history to shape a narrative about cultural life and urban modernity in early twentieth-century Sydney. The functioning of the business is informed by the stream’s various identities of essential water supply, sewer and drain: at times, it seems as if culture and learning may usher in an intellectual and internationalist utopia in the city, liberating the minds and bodies of those who inhabit it; at others, all such hope is lost. The narrative Stead develops around the printery and its employees brings local place into contact with transnational socialist and other intellectual discourses, and links both to culture as a material, interactive force within the urban milieu. Through a close reading of the Tank Stream Press, this essay explores the novel’s conflicted vision of culture, politics and urbanity in modern Sydney.'

Source: Abstract.

'Lights all Askew in the Heavens' : Einsteinian Relativity, Literary Modernism and the Lecture on Light in Christina Stead’s Seven Poor Men of Sydney, Sam Matthews , single work criticism

'This essay offers new insights into Christina Stead’s Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) and in particular its celebrated ‘lecture on light.’ It illuminates the historical context of Stead’s first novel, via reactions to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, as well as its literary historical context, via the responses of modernist writers such as T. S. Eliot and Wyndham Lewis to the new physics. Eliot and Lewis used relativity as a metaphor to describe the literary experimentation of the literary avant-garde, notably James Joyce, as well as their own work. Stead, keenly interested in science but also (as a woman, a political radical and an Australian) something of a literary outsider, interpreted the science quite differently. The essay draws on another important cultural use of Einsteinian relativity, Mikhail Bakhtin’s conception of the chronotope (the unit of space-time in literary form). It argues that Stead’s understanding of the impact of relativity on literary structure when seen from the odd postcolonial space of Sydney, produces a polychronotopic text that radically deterritorialises national space and time. Stead’s use of relativity entails an eccentric critique of avant-garde modernism, but the new physics may also be reinterpreted by Stead as a distinct aesthetic strategy that speaks to an inter-war period of increasing global mobility and political strife.'

Source: Abstract.

The Children’s Chorus : Sibling Soundscapes in The Man Who Loved Children, Susan Carson , single work criticism

'The voices of children in The Man Who Loved Children allow Christina Stead to re-imagine her childhood and also to provide a platform for representing the struggles of children more broadly. Using a diverse range of narrative techniques Stead orchestrates the voices of the siblings to provide a soundscape for the Pollit world that dramatizes and at times directs the eccentricities of adult behaviour. In so doing Stead grants the children a type of agency that is unusual in the framework of adult fiction and thereby offers readers a new way to think about children. The tonal qualities created by Stead to represent the collective voice of the Pollit siblings are of strategic importance to the narrative and an important strand in the array of language strategies that Stead uses to open a space for the child’s perspective. This essay examines the ‘sound’ of the children in Stead’s novel and comments on connections with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse in which children also frame narrative action. The novels present a family at a moment of social change and create an opportunity for readers to listen to the voice of the child as mediated by writers who worked with sound as a component of their experimental fiction.'

Source: Abstract.

Repetition and Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, William Lane , single work criticism

'This essay explores repetition, in both content and technique, in Christina Stead’s novel, The Man Who Loved Children. I indicate how the Pollit family is shown to repeat itself and societal structures through language, ceremony, and family folklore. Content merges with form, I argue, when so many aspects of the novel’s plot and characterisation are repeated, either in pairings or oppositions. I assume a degree of difference is implicit in repetition, and consider the reading effects deriving from this inherent tension in repetition in the novel – as dramatised in the children’s resistance at times to replicating their father and mother, for example. In regard technique and repetition, I focus on Stead’s practice of presenting the same material in ways both particular and general, which I argue is a form of repetition hitherto largely unconsidered by narrative theorists. This presentation of the same material in different ways – the particular and the general – is powerful because it allows Stead to deploy both the advantages of the particular, which is good for dramatising, and the advantages of the general, which is effective for creating atmosphere and indicating larger connections and allusions, for instance to myth, allegory, and legend. I suggest that some reading effects of these repetitions include the production in the novel of meaning and form. I also consider how the repetitions enable Stead to show the return of the repressed, and acts of repression. The essay concludes by considering whether Stead’s blending of the particular and general might have implications for the classification of the genre of The Man Who Loved Children, and other Stead works in which repetition occurs in similar ways.'

Source: Abstract.

Christina Stead’s 'Kelly File' : Politics, Possession and the Writing of Cotters’ England, Brigid Rooney , single work criticism

'Critics who value Christina Stead’s radical politics often find the passionate excess and the spectral and ambiguous qualities that attend her fiction harder to explain. The political dimensions of Stead’s fiction are further complicated by a scene of writing – most dramatically described in Rowley’s 1993 biography – in which the author draws her material from the lives of close family and friends. The problem is framed in this paper as follows: how can qualities of excess, ambiguity and desire in Stead’s fiction (intimately connected to this scene of writing) be understood in relation to its politics? A substantial notebook acquired in 2007 by the National Library of Australia, dated from mid 1949 to early 1950 and internally designated as the ‘Kelly file’, illuminates Stead’s ten-month process of documenting, researching and transforming raw materials for the novel that was eventually published as Cotters’ England (1967). The notebook sheds new light on Stead’s creative process as one that involved, in Susan Lever’s phrase, ‘living inside the fictions she was making’ (Lever 2003). Patiently observing and capturing her characters, Stead allowed herself to be caught up with them. This paper identifies Stead’s notion of ‘possession’, a doubled and spectral dynamic, as integral to her creative modus operandi. On the one hand this involves the writer in taking possession by means of naturalist observation and classification, and on the other hand it entails being possessed. This is a dynamic that thrives on projection, paranoia, and the willed forgetting of investments. Stead’s theory of ‘spectral England’ – her own political explanation of what ails England – emerges from deep inside a creative process that returns to haunt the finished novel.'

Source: Abstract.

'Merely Unfriendly or Slightly Critical' : Christina Stead, The Left, and I’m Dying Laughing, Nicholas Birns , single work criticism

'The principal subject of the novel Stead spent much of her later years working on, published after her death, I'm Dying Laughing, is marked by the crisis of the Western left. As the son of one committed leftist and a nephew of another, and as someone who in his schooling and acculturation was highly exposed to the American left of the 1970s, I sensed the same crisis so seismically registered by Stead’s novel: of incongruity between aspirations and realities, of a distance between the proclaimed populism of the left and its practical elitism, and an odd disjuncture between the family worlds of these leftists and their political philosophies. In this paper, I consider a number of the ways in which Stead’s novel refracts and engages with the politics of mid-century American leftism and communism, its intellectual culture and ideology, issues that lie at the heart of Stead’s novel even as it deals with a woman, Emily Wilkes Howard, who, as a wife, as a mother and surrogate mother, as a writer, and as a political entity, ends up being unable to reconcile these contradictions.'

Source: Abstract.

Politics and Passion in Stead’s Late Novels, Susan Sheridan , single work criticism

'This essay examines some recent attempts to devise a new critical approach to Stead’s fiction which can encompass both the socialism she endorsed and the feminism she rejected, and asks how these approaches attempt to account for the affective as well as the intellectual impact of politics in Stead’s novels, in particular Cotters’ England and I’m Dying Laughing.'

Source: Abstract.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

'Australian Literary Studies' Edited by Julieanne Lamond Gillian Dooley , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 390 2017;
'Until 2015, Australian Literary Studies was still a printed artefact. It appeared in the mildly erratic pattern endemic to Australian humanities journals, which depend on busy people finding time for the rewarding but often unrewarded task of editing. Nevertheless, despite rising production costs and increasing competition from the online world, it remained impressively extant, with a good number of articles and reviews in each issue. An issue of Australian Literary Studies in 2015 contained about ten articles, probably 100 to 150 pages. The focus of my review then would have been on the content: the editorial choices, the standard of scholarship, the range of topics.' (Introduction)
'Australian Literary Studies' Edited by Julieanne Lamond Gillian Dooley , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 390 2017;
'Until 2015, Australian Literary Studies was still a printed artefact. It appeared in the mildly erratic pattern endemic to Australian humanities journals, which depend on busy people finding time for the rewarding but often unrewarded task of editing. Nevertheless, despite rising production costs and increasing competition from the online world, it remained impressively extant, with a good number of articles and reviews in each issue. An issue of Australian Literary Studies in 2015 contained about ten articles, probably 100 to 150 pages. The focus of my review then would have been on the content: the editorial choices, the standard of scholarship, the range of topics.' (Introduction)
Last amended 15 Dec 2016 09:44:16
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