The Enigmatic Christina Stead

Teresa Petersen
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The Enigmatic Christina Stead

Published

11 February 1997

ISBN

9780522849226

Imprint

Melbourne University Press

The Enigmatic Christina Stead

Teresa Petersen
Petersen argues that although Christina Stead's texts are saturated with a heterosexual norm, it is a façade that masks both lesbianism and male homosexual desire.
This is a remarkably stimulating new approach to Stead's fiction and to her psyche. In this very strong reading, often against the grain, the author illuminates Stead's fiction in a way that has never been done before.
Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Christina Stead is arguably Australia's greatest female novelist. Born and educated in Sydney, she spent the greater part of her life abroad, having left in 1928 'to satisfy a wandering impulse'. The most famous of her thirteen novels, The Man Who Loved Children (1940) is an acknowledged masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction.
Stead''s concentrated emotional intensity, her interest in extraordinary passion and her keen sense of fantasy and the grotesque have led to comparisons with D. H. Lawrence, Dostoevsky and Dickens. Immediately striking are her strong imaginative power and range, her verbal brilliance and her acute penetration of character.
The enigma identified and skilfully unravelled by Teresa Petersen, surprisingly, has hitherto been…
This is a remarkably stimulating new approach to Stead's fiction and to her psyche. In this very strong reading, often against the grain, the author illuminates Stead's fiction in a way that has never been done before.
Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Christina Stead is arguably Australia's greatest female novelist. Born and educated in Sydney, she spent the greater part of her life abroad, having left in 1928 'to satisfy a wandering impulse'. The most famous of her thirteen novels, The Man Who Loved Children (1940) is an acknowledged masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction.
Stead''s concentrated emotional intensity, her interest in extraordinary passion and her keen sense of fantasy and the grotesque have led to comparisons with D. H. Lawrence, Dostoevsky and Dickens. Immediately striking are her strong imaginative power and range, her verbal brilliance and her acute penetration of character.
The enigma identified and skilfully unravelled by Teresa Petersen, surprisingly, has hitherto been unexamined. Overtly, Stead presents the heterosexual norm as the paradigm par excellence, yet she portrays no happy heterosexual relationships or marriages, only miserable compromises. More covertly, lesbian eroticism pervades her fiction. Usually shrouded in silence, it imperceptibly surfaces and disappears, sliding in and out of the narrative.
Petersen argues compellingly that although Stead's texts appear on the surface to be saturated with the heterosexual norm, this is a façade that masks both lesbian and male homosexual desire. By elucidating Stead's subtextual preoccupation with homosexuality, Petersen challenges conventional scholarship and shifts our view of both Stead's work and her life.

Teresa Petersen

Dr Teresa Petersen lectures in the Department of English, Macquarie University.

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Paperback
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Other formats available