The Modernist Sacred: Randolph Stow and Patrick White


‘In this essay, the radical potentialities of modernism’s dialogue with notions of the sacred will be analysed, with a particular focus on the active construction of a transcendental spirituality that functions as a rejection of hegemonic forces. I will argue that Randolph Stow constructs a place in which hegemonic symbolisation–the alienating forms of language that separate subjects from the real–can be challenged or subverted. I will also argue that Patrick White’s fiction develops further the anti-hegemonic exploration of the sacred. In particular, I will explore the ways in which White’s novel Voss engages with concepts of the sacred, only to challenge direct notions of religious identification. This novel has provoked a series of interpretative gestures which privilege a Christian framework, without any political context which could help to explain the ethics of White’s treatment of the sacred. Thus, the current analysis will aim to re-politicise the reading of White’s novel, as a text that articulates a challenge to the hegemony of meaning in a colonial (and post-colonial) context.’

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Published 1 October 2007 in Volume 23 No. 2. Subjects: Modernism, Spiritual & religious beliefs, Randolph Stow, Patrick White.

Cite as: Andersson, Lars. ‘The Modernist Sacred: Randolph Stow and Patrick White.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, 2007, doi: 10.20314/als.5948a8a1f8.