Bosler, Danae: Australian novels by radical women

Bosler, Danae

Labour in vain: the forgotten novels of Australia’s radical women‘, Overland, 16 June 2015

Brief survey of novels by Betty Collins, Jean Devanny, Dorothy Hewett, Amanda Lohrey and others.

These novels are seminal Australian texts because of their cultural and historical significance to the lives of working women; yet they were rejected because of their political agenda and sexual intimacy. Described by critics at the time as ‘not very good’ and about ‘uninteresting people’, they are actually poignant, unique and deeply moving stories.

Since they were published, these novels have been dismissed as merely proletariat propaganda. As the argument goes, leftie literature cannot be literary in the classical or traditional sense by its very (political) nature.

It is assumed that for a novel to have a political agenda is to abandon the ideals of ‘good’ literary writing; that good literature should have aesthetic qualities and not a didactic purpose. It should be rich, profound and pleasurable in its language – which these novels are not.

Bosler’s article provoked many appreciative and perceptive comments.

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