Original Research

Contested selves and postmodern hybridity: Authorial renunciation and gender revisionism in Patrick White’s Memoirs of Many in One

Gregory H. Graham-Smith
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1779 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1779 | © 2022 Gregory H. Graham-Smith | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 December 2020 | Published: 28 February 2022

About the author(s)

Gregory H. Graham-Smith, Department of English Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences, School of Arts, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

This article attempted to reclaim Patrick White’s final novel, Memoirs of Many in One, from the margins of White scholarship. The novel was a significant omission from the first major study of White’s oeuvre to appear in over 25 years, entitled Remembering Patrick White: Contemporary Critical Essays, edited by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas. Reviled by critics such as David Tacey as demonstrating White’s systematic repudiation and trivialisation of his literary legacy, most palpably commemorated in the form of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature, the novel has been largely ignored by White scholars. Bridget Grogan’s ground-breaking new monograph on White’s work, Reading corporeality in Patrick White’s fiction also did not include a study of Memoirs. But, this was most probably because the novel does not fit the theoretical focus of her study. As I hope to demonstrate, using postmodernist, Lacanian and film theory, the book may be reinterpreted as a conscious renunciation by its author of the realist tenets, which saw the author as a God-like, omniscient figure. By placing himself as just another character in his novel and fracturing his gendered and narratological (author)ity in the form of multiple, never fully inhabited selves, White revealed the ultimate fraudulence of any claim to authorial and narrative transcendence.

Keywords

Patrick White; postmodernism; film theory; Lacan; hybridity

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