'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.)
'This chapter will build on recent work by Elizabeth McMahon and Christos Tsiolkas to situate Australia’s first Nobel Prize winner as a queer modernist with his own distinct political valence. Written by the foremost Chinese scholar of Australian literature, Chen Hong, this chapter explores Whites epochal career. It covers White’s novelistic oeuvre from The Aunt’s Story (1948) through to his late queer masterpiece, The Twyborn Affair (1979).' (Publication abstract)
'The Twyborn Affair (1979) is generally regarded as Patrick White’s covert “coming out” novel, followed by his frank “confession” in his autobiography, Flaws in the Glass (1981). However, this article explores how even an earlier work such as The Aunt’s Story (1977/1948), from the Nobel laureate’s modernist phase, may be seen as a pre-text for the gay self, whereby the author stages incomplete representations of his own subaltern position in the characters he “becomes” in his writing. Through a series of textual feints, his persona is disseminated in the form of polyvalent alternative selves which belie any possibility for recuperation of a stable, authentic selfhood. White thereby refuses the univocal inscription of subjectivity upon which sexual hegemony is predicated. What I aim to do in this article is to extend the particularities of the novel’s writing strategies (found in the Jardin Exotique section, for example, which functions as a Foucauldian heterotopic space) into the province of gender. In doing so, I will show how the gay author, through the central character, Theodora Goodman’s protean identities and the deployment of competing narrative epistemologies, can fabricate alternative subject positions. These attest not only to the artificial technologies of gender constitution, but also function as remnants of White’s own divided status, brought about by his dissonant subaltern position in the borderlands of representation.' (Publication abstract)
'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)