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Title: 'Scorched Earth', Washington and the missing manuscript of Christina Stead's I'm Dying Laughing
Contributor(s): Pender, A (author)
Publication Date: 2004
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Abstract: Christina Stead was writing her final novel I'm Dying Laughing on and off for nearly thirty years. She began work on the book in the 1940s but when she presented the completed manuscript to her publishers in 1966 she was confronted with a barrage of criticism. Stead's agent, both her American and English publishers, and her friend and editor Stanley Burnshaw all instructed her to make substantial changes to the manuscript. In particular they asked her to add more detail about the politics of the 1930s and 1940s in the United States. Reluctantly, Stead began a difficult revision process that never ended. After Stead's death in 1983 her literary trustee Ron Geering (1918-2002) spent three years working on the many drafts of I'm Dying Laughing that were left to him, in order to construct a publishable version which appeared in 1986.Recently, a friend of Stead's showed me an extensive collection of manuscript pages of I'm Dying Laughing. This manuscript material was kept separate from the manuscript in Geering's possession and therefore was not available to him when he was working on the text. The discovery of this new collection represents a very significant development in the history of I'm Dying Laughing, Stead's most radical novel. The collection contains parts of the story that do not appear in the published book, and these sections therefore fill some of the puzzling gaps in the text. Moreover, a reading of the new collection alongside the material used by Geering reveals that the punished book uses only a fraction of Stead's drafts. This raises a number of questions about the published text: how faithful it is to Stead's text or texts, and to her overall 'purpose' in writing and re-writing this extraordinary novel? It also raises the tantalising question of whether another edition of I'm Dying Laughing should be published.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Australian Literary Studies, 21(3), p. 235-250
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Place of Publication: Brisbane
ISSN: 0004-9697
Field of Research (FOR): 200506 North American Literature
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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