Christina Stead by Diana Brydon (auth.)

By Diana Brydon (auth.)

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Instead of examining traditional female roles and rewriting them, her work appropriates traditional male roles for her female characters without formulating that act as transgressive. Similarly, she casts male characters in traditionally female roles as a matter of course. In Far Love Alone, Teresa casts herself as the valiant knight courting Jonathan Crow, who assumes the position of the 'belle dame sans merci', withholding love from his ardent suitor. Similarly, Letty Fox moums her failure to keep her 'homme fatale', the elusively seductive Luke.

In her last published book, Miss Herbert, she mocks the trite eulogising of the 'universal' in literature for the obscurantist nonsense it iso Only in specifics can the truths that reside beneath the official dicbes be seen. She always insisted that she only wrote what she saw and what she heard. Hers is a profoundly sensuous art, relying on the author's own relation to the world through the medium of her senses, and depicting her characters as motivated by similar relations. As Don Anderson points out, Stead writes a drama of the appetites.

13). She first appears 'slipping her new shoe off her swoHen right foot' (p. 1). This 'shoe' is too confining a fit. Oliver teHs Coromandel that 'Every woman is the headless woman: we love the Venus without an arm, the leaf- PARISIAN AFFAIRS S3 winged hamadryad .. ' (p. 186), again the woman as object. Yet on another occasion he is capable of lamenting to Elvira: 'I love to think of astate in which women will be perfectly free. The women we know are inchoate . . Aphrodite is not yet born' (p. 85).

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