Christina Stead and the Socialist Heritage

by Michael Ackland

Description

This book is in the Cambria Australian Literature book series (Series editor: Susan Lever).

Christina Stead (1902–1983) was an Australian novelist and short-story writer acclaimed for her satirical wit and penetrating psychological characterizations. Stead enjoyed an international reputation in the 1930s and beyond, then went out of favor as a communist-affiliated writer, until she was rediscovered by feminist critics. Her standing is considerable, and in Australia she vies with Patrick White for the laurel of finest Australian novelist.

In this book, author Michael Ackland argues that the single most important influence on Stead’s life, socialism, has been seriously neglected in studies of her life and work. Ackland delves into Stead’s political formation prior to her departure for London in 1928, arguing that considerable insights can be added to the known record by reviewing these years within a specifically political context, as well as by interrogating Stead’s own accounts of key persons and events. He examines her novels, from Seven Poor Men of Sydney to I’m Dying Laughing and The Man Who Loved Children, and focuses on Stead’s conception of history, of capitalist finance, and on the significance of the key historical moments that frame her works.

In tracing the trajectory of her work, Ackland illuminates how Stead was, as a well-informed Marxist critic underscored, a product of thirties. Steeped in socialist literature and steeled to withstand ideological adversity, Stead emerged at the end of the decade a strongly committed novelist, whose intellectual idealism and convictions could, as coming decades would show, long withstand privation, heartbreaks and the unwelcome lessons of history.

This is an important book for collections in Australian literature, comparative literature, world literature, and women's studies.



 

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