Review of Christina Stead: Satirist, by Anne Pender, and The Enigmatic Christina Stead: A Provocative Re-Reading, by Teresa Petersen
Christina Stead's fictions continue to puzzle and fascinate her readers. Following in the traditions of debate first sparked by Hazel Rowley's controversial biography, these two new texts reveal the polarities that continue to divide Stead studies. Teresa Petersen, like Rowley, ultimately reads the work as a gloss on the life. Anne Pender allies herself with those who stress Stead's creativity in transforming life into art. By placing Stead's fiction within the traditions of satire, she addresses Stead's contributions tothe genre and her engagements with the political and social issues of her times without resorting to biographical speculation. Indeed, Pender insists on the intellectual and analytical components of Stead's art. Both are innovative studies and well-documented contributions to the field, making good use of the letters and archival resources, although to very different ends. Each is fully immersed in Stead studies yet produces radically different impressions of the character of Stead's achievements. Although each agrees that Stead 'tackles a taboo: the missing discourse of female sexual desire and its corollary, ill fated female sexual aggression' (Pender 59), each develops this theme in such radically different ways that the two 'Christina Steads' so produced have little in common.
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Cite as: Brydon, Diana. ‘Review of Christina Stead: Satirist, by Anne Pender, and The Enigmatic Christina Stead: A Provocative Re-Reading, by Teresa Petersen.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 2003, doi: 10.20314/als.2cc975d167.