Oz Lit in the Twentieth Century

Patrick White

Patrick White was the focus of much of today’s lecture. His essay “The Prodigal Son” (1958) gives a wonderful account of why White came back to Australia after nearly 20 years in Europe. He describes his response to a materialistic, spiritually dead culture and yet sets out his determination to make a difference to this land of utter emptiness. He writes: “… I wanted to discover the extraordinary behind the ordinary, the mystery and the poetry which alone could make bearable the lives of such people, and incidentally, my own life since my return.” You can read this essay along with a range of other speeches made by Patrick White:


The quote above from “The Prodigal Son” sheds light on what is behind nearly all of Patrick White’s work, especially parts of the novel Voss which we explored in class. Laura Trevelyan, is someone who is not showy or pretentious; she keeps to herself and yet is presented as deeply in tune with the people and landscape around her. She is someone who seems to embody White’s depiction of the “extraordinary behind the ordinary”.

Other authors covered this week were

John Shaw Neilson

Miles Franklin

Frederic Manning

M. Barnard Eldershaw (Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw)

Judith Wright and Oodgeroo Noonuccal (their relationship)

Rosemary Dobson

Francis Webb

Gwen Harwood

Blog Topics for Week 8

1/ Chose any one of the above authors (including Patrick White) and say briefly why you would like to explore some more of what they have written and thought.

2/ Take a single line from a poem by any one of the poets presented this week and use this line as the starting point for a short poem of your own.

3/ Create a brief, annotated digital kit on the life and work of any one of the writers introduced this week.

4/ Create your own topic, building this on aspects of your own experience and relating it where possible to the themes presented this week.

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