AustLit logo
Christina Stead and Her Critics single work   criticism  
Issue Details: First known date: 2000... 2000 Christina Stead and Her Critics
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

The graph of Christina Stead's writing life traces advances and retreats, peaks and troughs. The challenge for a critic at the beginning of the twenty-first century, conditioned to fissure and fragmentation, is none the less to come to terms with the discontinuities that are of the essence of the career of this Australian-born novelist who spent half of her long life in England, Europe, and the United States. This first volume of essays by various hands on the work of Christina Stead is a milestone in the complicated narrative of her critical reputation, a narrative which presents a case study in cultural politics both inside and outside the academy. The Magic Phrase: Critical Essays on Christina Stead appears nearly seventy years after her first work of fiction, The Salzburg Tales, published in 1934; sixty years after her masterpiece, The Man Who Loved Children, in 1940 (and thirty-five years after its republication in 1965 resurrected her career); and nearly twenty years after her death at the age of 80 in 1983. Quite the most unusual feature of Stead's career is the separation of its two major phases by a period of thirteen years during which she was writing constantly but unable to get published. When The Man Who Loved Children was reissued in 1965, Stead had not had a book out since The People with the Dogs, her ninth work of fiction, published in 1952. Between 1965 and her death, she published three novels and a set of novellas, all written in the late 1940s and 1950s. Moreover, in the 1980s R. G. Geering, her literary executor, brought about the posthumous publication of another novel, I'm Dying Laughing, which Stead had begun by the early 1950s, and worked and reworked into the 1970s; and also collected in Ocean of Story essays and short stories, some not previously published, written at various times during her career and including pieces which date from her return to Australia to visit in 1969, and to live in 1974. The consequent mismatch between the chronologies of composition and publication of Christina Stead's work is a major factor in the vagaries of her reputation.' (Introduction)


  • Epigraph: A writer like others lives, grows, meets people, travels, has experiences; his life is not a straight line with continuities; but a critic honestly feels he is obliged to find these continuities. – Christina Stead, letter of 23 May 1963, A Web of Friendship, p.208.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon The Magic Phrase : Critical Essays on Christina Stead Margaret Harris (editor), St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z556730 2000 anthology criticism

    'Christina Stead (1902-83) is regarded worldwide as one of Australia's greatest novelists. The New Yorker called her "the most extraordinary woman novelist produced by the English-speaking race since Virginia Woolf". This is the first volume to provide an overview of Stead criticism, including pioneering 'classic' essays and critical literature from the 1980s and '90s by a range of Australian, North American and English critics.' (Publication summary)

    St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000
    pg. 1-22, notes 263-267
Last amended 24 Feb 2017 15:12:18
1-22, notes 263-267 Christina Stead and Her Criticssmall AustLit logo