'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.)
'In Reading Corporeality in Patrick White's Fiction: An Abject Dictatorship of the Flesh, Bridget Grogan combines theoretical explication, textual comparison, and close reading to argue that corporeality is central to Patrick White's fiction, shaping the characterization, style, narrative trajectories, and implicit philosophy of his novels and short stories. Critics have often identified a radical disgust at play in White's writing, claiming that it arises from a defining dualism that posits the 'purity' of the disembodied 'spirit' in relation to the 'pollution' of the material world. Grogan argues convincingly, however, that White's fiction is far more complex in its approach to the body. Modeling ways in which Kristevan theory may be applied to modern fiction, her close attention to White's recurring interest in physicality and abjection draws attention to his complex questioning of metaphysics and subjectivity, thereby providing a fresh and compelling reading of this important world author.'
'In ‘Orders of Discourse’ Foucault raises the deeply embedded opposition between reason and folly: ‘From the depths of the Middle Ages a man was mad if his speech could not be said to form part of the common discourse of men’. This discursive rule becomes magnified in the case of women and of the colonised. In Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country and Patrick White’s The Aunt’s Story, Magda and Theodora demonstrate the precarious marginality of the colonial woman. They are doubly marginalised as colonial women, existing outside settler history, which is the narrative both of the masculine responsibilities of settlement and an attendant sense of displacement. In Coetzee’s novel, Magda plays out a version of The Tempest in which she is subjected both to the Law of the Father and to Caliban, while in The Aunt’s Story Theodora plots a determined path out of the discourse of men into the ambivalently liberating horizon of madness. The differences between the women say as much as the similarities, but both offer a compelling version of the layered marginalities of the female colonial subject. In the writers’ hands the place outside discourse, the peculiar language of the colonial women, becomes the potential location of counter discourse. This essay proposes that the women demonstrate a radical interiority, a capacity to inhabit the lives of others in a way that is considered madness but which enacts the utopian function of literature itself.' (Publication abstract)
This essay takes into consideration some of the themes dear to Veronica
Brady’s heart and present in her profound critical analysis of Australian literature. Veronica often read Patrick White’s work in the light of a spiritual quest and a mystical-mythical vision. Aim of this essay is to investigate how the figure of the aunt, in The Aunt’s Story (1948), embodies one of the isolated and visionary characters in White’s work who transmits a message that superficial contemporary society is unable to understand. I will show how Theodora Goodman’s role as explorer in the inner land of the Self connects her with ancient partnership (Eisler 1987), Goddess’ archetypes, in particular that of the Crone, embodying a “woman of age, wisdom and power” (Bolen 2001). This figure had an important but now forgotten role in ancient gylanic societies (Eisler 1987). Theadora, the Goddess’ gift, as the protagonist’s name should read, is a powerful reminder of the sacred spiritual function of ancient
women-priestess. Theodora is Theadora, a priestess beloved by the Goddess. Contemporary society, being unable to see beyond the ordinary, can only catalogue these sacred figures as ‘mad’.