Literary politics and the cold war: the case of Christina Stead

Ackland, Michael (2010) Literary politics and the cold war: the case of Christina Stead. Pacific and American Studies, 10. pp. 50-65.

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Christina Stead's life is at once too well and too little known. Fourteen major works, totally more than five and a half thousand pages, refract half a century of her experiences on three continents. These are complemented by important caches of surviving letters, which evoke her impressions of specific places and countries, capture the ebb and flow of her personal relations, and offer apparently frank avowals on a variety of literary, social and historical subjects. Moreover Stead, following the reissuing of The Man Who Loved Children in 1965, enjoyed considerable fame and, after returning permanently to her native land in 1975, made herself publicly available on numerous occasions, including for lengthy periods as a writer in residence at the Australian National University and Monash University. There she cultivated the impression of being primarily interested in her art. Certainly she responded to current issues, embracing the concern of her friend, "Nugget" Coombs, with indigenous affairs, as well as lending her voice to growing opposition to the war in Vietnam. But there was little in her utterances to distinguish them from the local leftist agenda of the day, which opposed American imperialsim and sought to elect a federal Labour government after decades of conservative rule. There was nothing to suggest that she had once been a fervent member of organisations opposed to parliamentary democracy, or a vehement advocate of engaged art, and the belief that writers should use their pens to cut through the moribund tissues of society in the cause of human freedom and revolution. Her political engagement before, and even during, the Pacific War was fast fading from memory. In 1973 she remarked, without exaggeration, in an interview: "People don't remember all that, you know. The thirties was a hundred years ago." Since then the amnesia has only deepened, so that she remains in important respects, as a recent monograph underscored, "the enigmatic Christina Stead" (Peterson).

Item ID: 15704
Item Type: Article (Non-Refereed Research)
ISSN: 1346-2989
Keywords: literature, philosophy, history
Date Deposited: 31 May 2011 22:13
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2099 Other Language, Literature and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified @ 60%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2199 Other History and Archaeology > 219999 History and Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 10%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2203 Philosophy > 220399 Philosophy not elsewhere classified @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950499 Religion and Ethics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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