Gender, Madness, and Colonial Paranoia in Australian Literature
By (author) Laura Deane
Publication date:31 May 2017
Length of book:214 pages
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.
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.