Politics and Passion in Stead’s Late Novels

Abstract

This essay examines some recent attempts to devise a new critical approach to Stead’s fiction which can encompass both the socialism she endorsed and the feminism she rejected, and asks how these approaches attempt to account for the affective as well as the intellectual impact of politics in Stead’s novels, in particular Cotters’ England and I’m Dying Laughing.

The question of Stead’s political beliefs and their influence on her writing is one to which readers have persistently returned. It illustrates very well the cycles of ‘repetition, recognition and renewal’ featured at the symposium on her work from which this collection of essays comes. A quarter of a century after the collapse of Soviet communism, the ideology of revolution to which Stead was loyal our understanding of this question will necessarily change, our critical perspectives shift. This essay examines some recent attempts to devise a new critical approach to the fiction which can encompass both the socialism Stead endorsed and the feminism she rejected. My concern here is to identify the capacity of these approaches to consider the affective as well as the intellectual impact of politics in Stead’s novels, in particular Cotters’ England and I’m Dying Laughing.

When in 1965 her great novel The Man Who Loved

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Published 7 December 2016 in Rediscovering Christina Stead. Subjects: Feminism, Politics, Christina Stead.

Cite as: Sheridan, Susan. ‘Politics and Passion in Stead’s Late Novels.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 31, no. 6, 2016. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.ef8d3d2e7e.