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Gender, Madness, and Colonial Paranoia in Australian Literature

Australian Psychoses

Laura Deane

This book offers an original and compelling analysis of women’s madness, gender and the Australian family. Taking up Anne McClintock’s call for critical works that psychoanalyze colonialism, this radical re-assessment of novels by Christina Stead and Kate Grenville provides a sustained account of women’s madness and masculine colonial psychosis from a feminist postcolonial perspective. This book rethinks women’s madness in the context of Australian colonialism. Taking novels of madness by Christina Stead and Kate Grenville as its point of critical departure, it applies a post-Reconciliation lens to the study of Australia’s gender and racial codes, to place Australian sexism and misogyny in their proper colonial context. Employing madness as a frame to rethink postcolonial theorizing in Australia, Gender, Madness, and Colonial Paranoia in Australian Literature psychoanalyses colonialism to argue that Australia suffers from a cultural pathology based in the strategic forgetting of colonial violence. This pathology takes the form of colonial paranoia about ‘race’ and gender, producing distorted gender codes and ways of being Australian. This book maps the contours of Australian colonial paranoia, weaving feminist literary theory, psychoanalysis and postcolonial theory with poststructuralist approaches to reassess the traditional canon of critical madness scholarship, and the place of women’s writing within it. This provocative work marks a radical departure from much recent feminist, cultural, and postcolonial criticism, and will be essential reading for students of Australian literature, cultural studies and gender studies wanting a new insight into how the Australian psyche is shaped by settler colonialism. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 214Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-4732-1 • Hardback • May 2017 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-4985-4733-8 • eBook • May 2017 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
Laura Deane teaches English and politics at Flinders University of South Australia.
- Made Mad: Women, Madness and National Culture
- The Intelligible Madwoman
- Theorizing the Madwoman: Gender, Madness and Colonialism
- National Identity and Colonial Paranoia in The Man Who Loved Children
Lilian’s Story
- Dark Places and the White Nation: Colonial Manliness
Chapter Six - Conclusions: Australian Psychoses
In this wide-ranging study, Laura Deane traces the development of feminist understandings of ‘women’s madness’ through earlier analyses of patriarchal power and psychoanalysis and into the spaces of postcolonial theory. There she locates her central argument that ‘the real text of madness is the text of colonial psychosis.’ Three major Australian novels by Christina Stead and Kate Grenville are ‘excavated’ for critiques not only of colonial gender relations but also of ‘race,’ nationalism and colonialism. In her readings, Deane demonstrates with power and subtlety that it is the male rather than the female characters who embody the pathology of the imperial enterprise. She makes an important contribution to critical interpretations of both novelists and also to the interrelations of feminist and postcolonial literary theory.
Susan Sheridan, Flinders University

Laura Deane has written a fascinating book on the logic of the dysfunctional settler colonial family. Drawing on the work of two authors - Christina Stead and Kate Grenville - whose ‘domestic’ novels narrate a visceral mode of masculine power and dysfunction Deane illustrates clearly the relationship between national identities, colonization, desire and patriarchy. This important new book does important work in extending feminist, colonial, and psychoanalytic theories. It applies these ideas to three novels about madness in order to explain how and why, in a country where white people imagine themselves as reproducing happy families within a moral society, terror – in the form of gendered and raced violence – continues to shape our homes and communities. Deane’s nuanced analysis takes the reader to the ‘dark places of the “national psyche” in order to ‘decode powerful cultural fictions’ about Australianness.
Catriona Elder, The University of Sydney