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Modernism in Australia (6AAEC054)
Semester 1 / 2013


y separately published work icon Voss : A Novel Patrick White , London : Eyre and Spottiswoode , 1957 Z872480 1957 single work novel (taught in 33 units)

'Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss is the story of the secret passion between an explorer and a naïve young woman. Although they have met only a few times, Voss and Laura are joined by overwhelming, obsessive feelings for each other. Voss sets out to cross the continent. As hardships, mutiny and betrayal whittle away his power to endure and to lead, his attachment to Laura gradually increases. Laura, waiting in Sydney, moves through the months of separation as if they were a dream and Voss the only reality.

'From the careful delineation of Victorian society to the sensitive rendering of hidden love to the stark narrative of adventure in the Australian desert, Patrick White's novel is a work of extraordinary power and virtuosity.'

Source: Random House Books (Sighted 21/09/2012)

y separately published work icon The Aunt's Story Patrick White , London : Routledge , 1948 Z470389 1948 single work novel (taught in 27 units)

'With the death of her mother, middle-aged Theodora Goodman contemplates the desert of her life. Freed from the trammels of convention, she leaves Australia for a European tour and becomes involved with the residents of a small French hotel. But creating other people's lives, even in love and pity, can lead to madness. Her ability to reconcile joy and sorrow is an unbearable torture to her. On the journey home, Theodora finds there is little to choose between the reality of illusion and the illusion of reality. She looks for peace, even if it is beyond the borders of insanity.' (From the publisher's website.)

The Ham Funeral Patrick White , 1947 single work drama (taught in 7 units)
— Appears in: Four Plays 1965; (p. 11-74) Collected Plays : Volume I 1985; (p. 11-74)
y separately published work icon The Man Who Loved Children Christina Stead , New York (City) : Simon and Schuster , 1940 Z462160 1940 single work novel (taught in 19 units)

'Set in Washington during the 1930s, Sam and Henny Pollit are a warring husband and wife. Their tempestuous marriage, aggravated by too little money, lies at the centre of Stead's satirical and brilliantly observed novel about the relations between husbands and wives, and parents and children.

'Sam, a scientist, uses words as weapons of attack and control on his children and is prone to illusions of power and influence that fail to extend beyond his family. His wife Henny, who hails from a wealthy Baltimore family, is disastrously impractical and enmeshed in her own fantasies of romance and vengeance. Much of the care of their six children is left to Louisa, Sam's 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage. Within this psychological battleground, Louisa must attempt to make a life of her own.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (MUP).

y separately published work icon The Darkening Ecliptic 'Ern Malley' , Melbourne : Reed and Harris , 1944 Z339108 1944 collected work poetry (taught in 4 units)
y separately published work icon Brumby Innes : A Play in Three Acts Katharine Susannah Prichard , 1927 (Manuscript version)8304401 8304396 1927 single work drama (taught in 4 units)

Brumby Innes 'begins with a corroboree and, like Coonardoo, attempts to engage with a portrayal of Aboriginal life. Its central character, Brumby Innes, is a swaggering drunk who exploits the black workers on his station and abuses the women; he bears a close resemblance to Sam Geary in Coonardoo. Yet, Brumby Innes provides the central energy of the drama, and the celebration of that energy in the play conflicts with the dramatic critique of his sexism and racism. Brumby Innes's character exemplifies the ambivalent attitude in Prichard's work toward this type of male hero. Portrayed as stereotypically masculine, such characters are admired for their energetic, vital sexuality; yet, the extreme limitations of such maleness are also acknowledged.'

Source: Bird, Delys. 'Katharine Susannah Prichard.' Australian Writers, 1915-1950. Ed. Selina Samuels. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 260.

y separately published work icon Kangaroo D. H. Lawrence , 1923 New York (City) : Thomas Seltzer , 1923 Z120344 1923 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

Kangaroo, set in Australia, is D. H. Lawrence's eighth novel. He wrote the first draft in just forty-five days while living south of Sydney, in 1922, and revised it three months later in New Mexico. The descriptions of the country are among the most vivid and sympathetic ever penned, and the book fuses lightly disguised autobiography with an exploration of political ideas at an immensely personal level. His anxiety about the future of democracy, caught as it was in the turbulent cross currents of fascism and socialism, is only partly appeased by his vision of a new bond of comradeship between men based on their unique separateness. Lawrence's alter ego Richard Somers departs for America to continue his search.

y separately published work icon The Getting of Wisdom Henry Handel Richardson , London : Heinemann , 1910 Z901329 1910 single work novel (taught in 25 units)

'A coming-of-age story of a spontaneous heroine who finds herself ensconced in the rigidity of a turn-of-the-century boarding school. The clever and highly imaginative Laura has difficulty fitting in with her wealthy classmates and begins to compromise her ideals in her search for popularity and acceptance.' (From the publisher's website.)

y separately published work icon All That Swagger Miles Franklin , Sydney : Bulletin , 1936 Z451516 1936 single work novel (taught in 2 units)
y separately published work icon Short Stories in Prose and Verse Henry Lawson , Sydney : Louisa Lawson , 1894 Z1214348 1894 selected work poetry prose short story (taught in 2 units)
Poetry by A. D. Hope, James McAuley, Harold Stewart and Kenneth Slessor


This module introduces key works of modernist literature written in Australia, including novels and plays by the country’s most internationally acclaimed writers Christina Stead and Patrick White. It begins by outlining the ‘bush realism’ that dominated late 19th century Australian writing and by exploring anti-modernist nationalist criticism, before surveying the modernist writing which emerged in this conflicted terrain. Along the way it investigates the impact of DH Lawrence’s sojourn in Australia during his ‘savage pilgrimage’ and the infamous hoax that created Ern Malley, Australia’s great (albeit non-existent) modernist poet. It will encourage debate about the fraught intersection of modernism and imperialism in Australia, and provide a transnational context for the study of modernism.


1 x 4,000 word essay (100% of final mark)

Other Details

Levels: Undergraduate