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Wakers and sleepers : the dynamics of Christina Stead's 'drama of the person'

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Brown, Denise (1990) Wakers and sleepers : the dynamics of Christina Stead's 'drama of the person'. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis begins with an introductory survey of the various influences which shaped Christina Stead's vision of life and her interest in drama is identified as an important aspect influencing her work. Her kinship with Balzac, Henry James and others in the European tradition of the dramatic novel is evident. Her concerns as a dramatic novelist are then examined briefly and some of the criticisms of her ability to create character successfully are dealt with.
From the outset, Stead uses both drama and dream as metaphors through which to express the illusory quality of life. The thesis demonstrates that in many ways these terms become interchangeable. It explores Stead's use of myth and legend and of the drama and fiction of the past to reinforce her conception of the theatricality of her characters and their lives.
The emphasis of her 'drama of the person' is upon character rather than plot. Since she sees life as drama, a struggle, the forms of her novels reflect the flux or process of her characters' lives as they struggle to realise their dreams. Dialectic, manifested in character, imagery, style and theme, operates over the corpus as well as within each individual novel, contributing to the impression of flux or dynamic movement that is essential to drama. In keeping with Stead's use of the metaphor of life as dream or drama, her characters fall into the categories of 'wakers' and 'sleepers' according to the strength of their will to direct their lives. The ‘wakers' are those strong—willed characters whose aspirations are brought to fulfilment as they actively shape and direct their lives. Their dramas are marked by a narrative movement from entrapment towards their ultimate destiny. The 'sleepers' are those characters whose lives are marked by the aimlessness of inertia as they fail to break free from the forces of stasis and they succumb as victims of fate. A consistent pattern of imagery associated with these different categories augments the psychological dramas of the characters.
Stead's method of characterisation is a process of unmasking as each aspect of the multi—faceted personae in her dramas is revealed in the different roles they enact. Speech, in dramatic monologues and dialogue, exhibits a strong theatrical bias. Her characters are represented as actors in their plays of life and their actions, speech and gesture accord with this.
Stead's dramatic method combines detached naturalistic observation of and close engagement with her characters and their situations. Her presentation allows her characters to expose themselves directly in their ironic predicaments. In using this method, Stead has much in common with the dramatist.
The principles of her 'drama of the person' operate throughout the novels making her work an ongoing drama. The major novels are examined, for the most part chronologically, as a demonstration of this ongoing drama.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Stead, Christina, 1902-1983
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 1990 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
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Bibliography: leaves [275]-285. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1990

Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 00:42
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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