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Humanities 2016, 5(3), 76; doi:10.3390/h5030076

Australian Modernists in London: William Dobell’s The Dead Landlord and Patrick White’s The Ham Funeral

School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Parkville, 3010 VIC, Australia
Academic Editor: Peta Tait
Received: 19 May 2016 / Revised: 29 August 2016 / Accepted: 1 September 2016 / Published: 7 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emotions and Affect in the Humanities, Creative Arts, and Performance)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [209 KB, uploaded 7 September 2016]

Abstract

When Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, it was primarily for his novels. Less well recognised is the significance of White’s dramatic literature and his involvement in the theatre. This article offers a new analysis of White’s first notable breakthrough into theatre and drama, The Ham Funeral, which he wrote in postwar London and which was produced in Adelaide in 1961. This article argues that a modernist idiom of 20th-century Australian drama can be found in this play that laid the groundwork for a poetics of language, image and theatricality. The play’s aesthetic modernism is found primarily in the blend of expressionist and surrealist elements, the poetic language, the alienated creative subject and the representation of sexuality and the unconscious. White’s thematics also become political, concerned with power, masculinity and gendered assumptions about rationality and emotion, poetry and the body. Having lived in London during the interwar years, White was also part of the networks that included Australian-born artists, and he was exposed to influences from visual arts as well as theatre. Of these, the artist William Dobell was central to the genesis of The Ham Funeral, as was the Polish-born modernist artist S. Ostoja-Kotkowski, who was critical to the design of the brooding expressionist set that set the standard for subsequent stage realisations of the play. View Full-Text
Keywords: Patrick White; Ham Funeral; modernism; theatricality; Australian theatre Patrick White; Ham Funeral; modernism; theatricality; Australian theatre
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Varney, D. Australian Modernists in London: William Dobell’s The Dead Landlord and Patrick White’s The Ham Funeral. Humanities 2016, 5, 76.

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