Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time,
Out of the torrent, like the fainter land
Lensed in a bubble’s ghostly camera . . .
– Kenneth Slessor, ‘Out of Time’, 1939
In 1958, Patrick White famously distinguished between the experimental styles of his own novels and the ‘dreary, dun-coloured offspring of journalistic realism’ that he associated with the Australian novel (‘Prodigal’ 270). White’s comments reflect the values of cultural elites in the post-war period; nonetheless, they have remained remarkably persistent in shaping accounts of Australian modernism. According to White’s terms, in the decades leading up to the 1950s, Australian literature consisted of either nationalist-realism, or the literary modernism that would emerge from expatriate writers such as White himself, or Christina Stead. We might conclude that Australian literary modernism was missing between the wars, or that it only took place overseas, as ‘the only novelists who can really be said…