Patrick White and Murray Bail: Appropriations of ‘The Prodigal Son’


Placement of authors within literary traditions and discourses is an active, continual process. Both authors and critics often rely upon their predecessors in the categorisation of writers. For instance, many writers and critics have sought to ally themselves with Patrick White through frequent references to his extraordinarily influential critique of Australian writing in 'The Prodigal Son'. Murray Bail can be taken as a useful example of this. By reiterating White's text (or signs) Bail has placed himself within a specific literary framework and thus in a tradition of Australian writing. White's text functions within a discursive economy as a form of cultural currency. In using this currency, Bail has made a claim for inclusion within a tradition which is counter to what are seen as the dominant modes of Australian literature: realism and nationalism. In this way Bail and White have wielded some influence upon the critical reception of their respective works, showing that the construction and self-construction of the author is important in the examination of the reception and criticism of his/her texts.

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Published 1 May 1991 in Volume 15 No. 1. Subjects: Literary influences, Literary tradition, Murray Bail, Patrick White.

Cite as: Thomas, Glen. ‘Patrick White and Murray Bail: Appropriations of ‘The Prodigal Son’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, 1991, doi: 10.20314/als.cdf4990547.