Ladies and Gentlemen? Language, Body and Identity in The Aunt’s Story and The Twyborn Affair

Critical focus on Patrick White's fiction has recently intensified. Contemporary authors, too, are looking back at White with admiration: Penguin Classics has begun to republish his fiction, with Thomas Keneally providing the introduction to Voss and J.M. Coetzee that to The Vivisector. Coetzee reminds us of 'the power of White's idiosyncratic verbal style' (xvi), the force of 'prose that itself bears the marks of struggle' (xvii), and the imagistic detail of White's 'painterly vision of the world' (xvii). The implication is that this difficult author still yields his rewards -indeed, these benefits may be harnessed in the light of critical theory arising or evoking interest since his death. In The Aunt's Story (1948) and The Twyborn Affair (1979), generally considered White's first and last great novel respectively, the themes of gendered settler identity and its subversion are prominent. Along with The Solid Mandala, White proclaimed these his favourites of his twelve novels (Flaws 145). Gordon Collier, interested in why they should stand out, observes that they represent 'his most consistent, daring and unified essays into the nature of human identity (particularly the quest for psychical and sexual wholeness)' (5) .

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Published 1 October 2013 in Volume 28 No. 3. Subjects: Body image, Identity, Language, Literary portrayal, White, Patrick.

Cite as: Grogan, Bridget. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen? Language, Body and Identity in The Aunt’s Story and The Twyborn Affair.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, 2013.