W/rites of Passion: Thea Astley's Sunshine Coast Transition from Poetry to Fiction

Taylor, Cheryl (2017) W/rites of Passion: Thea Astley's Sunshine Coast Transition from Poetry to Fiction. Queensland Review, 24 (2). pp. 271-281.

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During 1947 and 1948, Thea Astley's life changed in ways that permanently affected her writing. In August 1947, she obtained a transfer to Imbil State School, west of Noosa. In November she re-sat failed University of Queensland exams in economics and history, and graduated with a BA in the following April. In January 1948, Astley took up a secondary teaching post at Pomona Rural High. On 27 August, she married Jack Gregson at the Gympie Registry Office. She transferred to Brisbane for the remainder of 1948, and early in the New Year moved with her husband to Sydney. This article contrasts poetry about love and place that Astley wrote during these transition years with the themes and tone of her novel, A Descant for Gossips, published in 1960 and set in Pomona (‘Gungee’) and its environs. Dedicated ‘To John’, Astley's love poems display a passionate lyricism and a commitment that, though usually nervous and conditional, encompasses moments of settled happiness and clarity. In Descant, by contrast, moments of fulfilment in the love affair of teachers Helen Striebel and Robert Moller are suffused with guilt. Similarly, Astley's youthful response in her poetry to the beauty of the ranges and the coast collapses a decade later in Descant into a dystopic rendition of Gungee as a town that punishes defiance and crucifies difference. The article concludes by speculating about causes for the transformation.

Item ID: 66310
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2049-7792
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Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 02:25
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