Charles Lock reviews 'Patrick White within the Western Literary Tradition' by John Beston and 'Remembering Patrick White: Contemporary Critical Essays' edited by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas

Patrick White within the Western Literary Tradition

by John Beston

Sydney University Press, $40 pb, 394 pp, 9781920899370

Remembering Patrick White: Contemporary Critical Essays

edited by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas

Rodopi, €47 hb, 235 pp, 9789042028494

That Patrick White is thought of as an Australian writer is, though regrettable, undeniable. Two problems follow: the first being that he tends to be presented by his critical custodians in an almost comically restricted way, as though White’s works needed to be measured and justified only by Australian standards and terms of comparison. Here is an example from one of the essays in Remembering Patrick White, Lyn McCredden’s ‘Voss: Earthed and Transformative Sacredness’: ‘This essay argues ... that White’s establishing of the relationship of Laura and Voss is as an idiosyncratic invocation of mystical marriage’, at which point a footnote tells us that the ‘metaphor of mystical marriage’ is an ancient one, and refers us to some elementary sources such as The New Catholic Encyclopedia, while oddly omitting to mention St Francis, whose marriage to Lady Poverty is clearly a model, and a familiar one, before continuing the sentence: ‘and that the novel is most fully understood as a mystical and human meditation on possible forms of identity forged and embodied on this continent.’

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Published in April 2011, no. 330
Charles Lock

Charles Lock

Charles Lock has been, for almost forty years, a devoted reader of Patrick White. Educated at Oxford, he taught for many years at the University of Toronto. Since 1996 he has been the Professor of English Literature at the University of Copenhagen. Recent publications include essays on contemporary poets, Geoffrey Hill, Roy Fisher, and Anne Blonstein. He is the Editor of The Powys Review.

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