In pursuit of books by women writers to read and review for the Australian Women Writers Book Review series for 2012 I picked this at random from the shelves of a second-hand bookshop: ‘Soldier and Scholar’ in Castlemaine, Victoria. The cover is inscribed: ‘From Manuka to Manhattan Lauren’s going all the way’. Manuka is a familiar place to me. Now a trendy shopping and café centre, Manuka is close to the parliamentary triangle and hub of the nation’s capital, Canberra. I remember it as the place where the family did the weekly supermarket shopping when it was one of the two main centres on the south side of Lake Burley Griffin in the 1960s. The book’s cover also tells me that the main character, Lauren, is a Koori woman, a professional art curator who lands her dream job: a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute in New York. Manhattan Dreaming, I later learn, won a Deadly Award for the author, Anita Heiss, a woman of the Wiradjuri nation in Central New South Wales . The Deadlys, by the way, are awards given annually to Koori people who have achieved in the arts.
The storyline is straightforward enough. Lauren, in her late twenties, with a Masters Degree under her belt, and a job as Senior Curator at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra, is offered the chance of a lifetime to live and work in New York in her field. Supported by her friends keen that she leave behind her no-good, self obsessed boyfriend, a football player for the ‘Canberra Cockatoos’, no less, and centre of a sex scandal that has featured in these circles over the last few years, Lauren leaves her place, and her country, to venture into the new world – New York. Not only does she find that things are different over there, but she also has the opportunity, despite herself, to reconsider her relationship with the football player, and to understand what is valuable in a relationship. In New York, she learns, she can be herself and not, as she states, ‘someone’s exotic’. Gradually the sheaths fall from her eyes and she finds true love.
This is ‘chick lit’ stuff – but with another, serious, agenda. Woven throughout the text are matters of place, family and identity – an education for some readers about the place contemporary Koori culture within the broader Australian setting. Lauren is ‘a Lucas from Goulburn’, (a regional city near Canberra) she tells her new Koori acquaintances in New York. It places her. Her family has been there for generations. Lauren’s family are her stability, her parents’ home, the centre of her world. It is not idyllic; the Lucas family clearly has its struggles. Lauren’s older brother is in gaol for some unspecified crime – a common event for many Koori families. Her younger brother does not seem to be doing very much. Leaving Goulburn and her work in Canberra for adventures overseas means leaving her country. But she will always return home. It is never forever.
In a poignant scene early in the book Heiss highlights the intimacy of Lauren’s relationship with ‘place’ as her father struggles with the idea of her moving so far away.
Image via Wikipedia
THE BIG MERINO _ GOULBURN, NSW.
Image via Wikipedia
‘There’s the Big Mushroom in Canberra, andthere’s a Big Cow somewhere and a Giant Kangaroo, but ah, no, you women want togo to some Big Fancy Apple in America’. Dad stood up and took his cup to the sink, runningwater into it as he spoke. ‘I’m sorry love, but the Big Merino has been good enough for our mob for the longest time – no big piece of fruit is going to make me let a daughter of mind go to New York’. And there is the lovely joke between Lauren and her brother about ‘shagging’ in the eye cavity of the Big Merino! Heiss knows her places.
‘Place’ in Canberra is not so well handled by Heiss. Here her perception of the city and its workings seems rather two dimensional. 2010 Manuka might be a centre where young professionals gather, along with scattered eateries and nightclubs. I am not sure how the characters ended up in a suburb in Belconnen so far away from the centre where Lauren spends most of her time. Canberra has a thriving cultural and social life hidden beneath the façade of institutions and large public buildings. This is a small quibble in the overall texture of the novel. Moving to New York one may find similar issues regarding place. But there is another intercultural event going on as Lauren works out a new vernacular and variations in dating and relationship rituals from those she is accustomed to at home. Of course, she is finding new opportunities and common concerns between indigenous people in Australia and the United States.
Overall though this is a tale well told. With deftness of touch Heiss reveals another side to the bad news about Koori culture frequently featured in the Australian press. So often focus is upon the tragedies in the Northern Territory Communities that have become the centre of what the Government refers to as ‘The Intervention’ means that one misses the vibrant and creative work being undertaken by the Laurens of this world. Historically, even as missionaries and government officials have talked about the dire straights for Koori people living on the fringes of settler communities, there have also been Koori families who have found their way into that community and have been recognised for their contribution. Heiss’s task, to build bridges between settler and indigenous cultures, is well placed. She more than succeeds here.
A couple of posts ago I said that I was going to participate in this event: the idea being to spread the word about quality work by Australian women, and, for me to undertake some disciplined reading and thinking about reading.
To begin this project I decided to look first at my own bookshelf full of books that I bought with the intention of reading but have not got around to doing so, have inherited from my family’s bookcases, have been given as a gift, or borrowed. A couple of books I found in my local second hand bookshop. In the spirit of Wallaby I thought I would list my rather eclectic choice and my reasons for deciding to pursue these. Some of those ‘Wallaby’ chose – Henry Handel Richardson’s The Fortunes of Richard Mahony are on my shelf, too but are in the ‘already read’ category. My father handed the Richard Mahony book to me with the words, ‘Mahony is rather like your grandfather’ – meaning he was a dreamer…Too! But I learned that the apparently male writer was a woman – and a good one too.
Anyway the books I have chosen, not necessarily in any order of reading are:
Anita Heiss: Manhattan Dreaming; Bantam, 2010. Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Chick Lit. I picked this at random from the local second hand bookshop yesterday because it has a red cover ( visible) and the author is a woman. I have since discovered that Anita Heiss is a woman of the Wiradjuri Nation in New South Wales. This will be interesting.
Christine A S Hill, What Do Patients Want? Karnac, 2010 Genre: Non Fiction. I have chosen this partly because I work professionally in the in field of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Hill set out to interview people who had an experience of psychoanalysis as patients in order to understand what it was like for them. I bought the book shortly after it was published.
Anne Curthoys and Ann McGrath: How to write history that people want to read. UNSW Press. 2009. Genre: Non Fiction. Why? Because it was on my bookshelf. Curthoys and McGrath are historians, specialising in Indigenous Settler relations, at the Australian National University.
Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: An Interpretation. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Genre: Non Fiction. Clendinnen is one of the finest historians in Australia today.
Amy Witting: Beauty is the Straw, Angus and Robertson,1991. Genre: Poetry….
Lily Brett: Too Many Men, Picador 1999, Genre: Literary and Classics This book was another on the bookcase that needed reading.
Eleanor Dark: No Barrier, Genre: Literary and Classic. Dark’s work has haunted the family book case for years. I have not yet read this one.
Justine Ettler: The River Ophelia, Picador, 1995 Genre: Literary and Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Gen X Fiction… Another picked at random from the second hand bookshop.
Diane Bell, Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was, And Will Be, 1999. I discovered this book during my thesis writing years when I was exploring the history of the Ngarrindjeri people around Mannum and Murray Bridge in South Australia. Now to return and read it properly.
I have decided to sign up for theAustralian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge after reading about it on the blog : The Resident Judge of Port Phillip. I am a little worried though… I have a tendency to take on rather too much and can end up procrastinating. But I would like to return to habits of reading deeply and carefully, part of my undergraduate years. Time, career, writing a thesis, family responsibilities have meant that increasingly reading for pleasure was set aside, along with discovering new writers – and those of decades past. I can still recall reading Eve Langley’s 1942 book, ‘The Pea Pickers‘ and being fascinated by the journey of two sisters who went to work as labourers in Gippsland, when I was in my early twenties.
The Challenge Convenors have set an objective, viz:
This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011. It actively promotes the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women’s writing throughout 2012, the National Year of Reading.
I will aim to read ten books of either fiction or non-fiction and review four of them. There are a few books published in the last couple of years that interest me – including Anna Funder’s All That I Am. In the non-fiction field is the thesis turned into book by Psychologist Christine Hill. What Do Patients Want?, the result of her interviews with people who have sought psychoanalytic treatment. That makes two.
On 6 January 1923 the editor of the Adelaide Register published an explanation for Absent-Mindedness, a reflection perhaps from Freud’s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
‘At once the most amusing and the least convincing of the doctrines which Freud has reduced from psychoanalysis is that which insists that accidents never happen’, the editor wrote. ‘He believes that slips of the pen and tongue and crockery, printers’ errors, failures to remember names and to perform acts, and many other things which are put down to “absence of mind” are due to the overlooked presence of the “unconscious” mind, which often accounts for things lost, mislaid or broken’.
Skeptical indeed!! The editor continues, despite his doubts, with a good account of Freud’s theory…
‘According to the theory there is a back stairs or nursery region of the mind which never grows up. It retains the interests and the ideas of infancy, added to by later repressed memories, and perhaps by all so-called “forgotten” experiences. This unconscious mind is illogical and non-moral, and alert for opportunities left to it by the carelessness of the conscious to gain expression for itself by taking control of the brain. The unconscious mind is aware of the objects of unconscious thought, somewhat as the secondary person in cases of dual personality is aware of the primary, though in both cases the reverse is seldom the case. And being so aware, the unconscious assimilates the new objects in its own irrational, emotional way,working by association and not by reason. Retaining its infantile zest for mud-pies, for instance, the sculptors unconscious is thinking of these while his sublimated conscious interest is busy with his clay model’.
Cover of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
The editor continues, providing further information about Freud’s theory of mind, the breakdown of ego, and the consequent emergence of the id…
‘The real self is the responsible self. However over comparatively unimportant matters the responsible self may relax guard – just as, in insanity, it loses the battle altogether. This relaxed guard explains the slips of the tongue and pen, and all that Freud and Ernest Jones call “the psychopathology of everyday life”.
“Freud sees that, when plausible theory is explained by examples , absurdity appears; but he meets it unmoved. With that astonishing frankness about himself which repels the reserve, he tells how the loss of a knife nearly upset his belief in the theory. the knife was beautiful and useful as well as valuable, and he had it in constant use for many years. Even unconsciously he thought he could not have wished to lose it. Then he remembered the circumstances of its acquisition. His wife had given it to him, and the superstition of which he makes no secret made him fear lest it should ‘cut the love’. He lost the knife during a period of estrangement from his wife. Doubtless his unconscious (everyone’s conscious is superstitious, he maintains) had arranged the loss in hope of restoring the love’.
It is interesting indeed, that such a coherent explanation of Freud’s theory is provided for readers’ perusal, despite apparent doubts about its veracity. It may be that the editor was wise, arguing against Freud’s ideas as the common reader might, in order to explain a new idea. Freud’s theories had been circulating in the Australian press and bookshops for a little over a decade.
Between 18 April and 22 July this year the National Portrait Gallery‘s travelling exhibition Inner Worlds: Portraits and Psychology will be held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne. It is accompanied by a marvellous website, developed for its first exhibition last year. Recordings of talks by several of the curators and a panel discussion which includes Sydney based psychoanalysts, Reg Hook and John McLean as well as Deborah McIntyre, formerly from Melbourne but now living and working in Canberra provides rounded commentary on the multiple lenses through which these portraits can be viewed. A portrait – and discussion with David Chalmers, renowned world-wide for his work on the philosophy of consciousness is also included, much to my delight. His edited text Philosophy of Mind formed the basis of a profoundly interesting, to me at least, online course on the philosophy of mind through Oxford University. Chalmers also has his own website which I urge you to explore, here.
Inner Worlds links portraiture with psychoanalysis in Australia during the twentieth century. It brings together portraits of the early psychologists and psychoanalysts to emerge in this country as well as work by artists who, responding to the ‘New Psychology’ became interested in the relationship between art, psychology, the unconscious and ‘intense mental states’. Much of this was undertaken between the two world wars of the twentieth centuryas experiences of war, trauma and the use of psychology in the treatment of those people who were severely traumatised by these experiences were becoming clearer. For this reason some of the ‘pioneers’ selected for this exhibition were from the medical field. John William Springthorpe and Paul Dane were Melbourne medical practitioners who enlisted during WW1. Their work and interest in psychoanalysis followed that of British – and German – colleagues who learned in the field that the ‘talking cure’ helped soldiers who were deeply traumatized by a battlefield like no other in human history. Indeed trauma, war neurosis, and hysterical paralysis were the significant subjects for inclusion in the British Medical Journal during these years. Another war veteran, Roy Coupland Winn, originally from Newcastle in New South Wales, and the son of the owner of Winn’s Emporium in that town, became the first Australian psychoanalyst to begin private practice – in Sydney.
Credit does need to be given to Melbourne based historian Joy Damousi for her excavation of this arena. Her research, published in her 2005 book, Freud in the Antipodes, informs this exhibition – although those who are designated pioneers are as interesting as those who are omitted. Psychologist and Educator, Tasman Lovell, appointed Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney in 1929 is generally credited with developing the first separate department of psychology in Australia in 1939. Not included is his counterpart, Philip Le Couteur, appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at the newly opened University of Western Australia in 1913. Both were appointed in the war years during which they developed courses in experimental psychology and which included psychoanalysis by 1918. Australia was a small place then. Psychology was presented as a branch of philosophy. Le Couteur did not stay in Western Australia, however. Family concerns in the eastern states resulted in his decision to resign his post and move to Melbourne where he took up the headmastership of Methodist Ladies College by the end of 1918.
Representing the clergy is Ernest Burgmann, appointed the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn in 1934. Generally credited for his social activism, as Damousi notes, Burgmann sought to marry this with his religious committment. His interest in psychoanalysis appears to have begun in the 1920s when he attended Tasman Lovell’s lectures at the University of Sydney. By 1929 he was writing of its applicability to disciplines – anthropology, criminology, education, theology, economics and literature. It is hard to guage on the amount of evidence provided whether Burgmann’s interest was a consequence of his own particular questing mind. He appears to have been a person of many interests. Nevertheless Burgmann, the theologian and clergyman was not alone in his appreciation of the usefulness of psychoanalytic thinking in this line of work. He was not necessarily a pioneer, though. In 1923 Congregational minister Nicholas Cocks had written at length about the congruence between the psychoanalytic process and the theologians work in an article published the second edition of the Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy. Unfortunately Cocks died suddenly in 1925 – too early, really. Perhaps there are other contenders for the pioneering label. There is till much more to explore in the Australian field.
Of course the early psychoanalysts are central to this exhibition which includes portraits of Clara Geroe, the first training analyst in Australia by Judy Cassab.
Clara Lazar Geroe together with her husband and child and her colleague, Andrew Peto with his wife, arrived from Europe and Nazi persecution during 1940 – after protracted lobbying from British psychoanalyst Ernest Jones. He had also had ensured Freud was released from Germany – despite the reluctance of the British Government to act on the refugee issue. Instrumental for her acceptance as an emigrant was the advocacy of the Australian psychiatrists Paul Dane, Reg Ellery, Coupland Winn, along with the clergy through Bishop Burgmann, and head of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sir Charles Moses. This group had taken their case to the Australian Department of Interior. Geroe, a trained analyst and member of the The Budapest Psychoanalytical Society, subsequently became Australia’s first Training Analyst and a founding member of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society in Melbourne.
Dr Clara Geroe – by Judy Cassab
In 1982, Geroe’s interview with by researcher, Douglas Kirsner was published in the Melbourne journal, Meanjin, then under the editorship of Judith Brett in September 1982. Here Geroe related that her first contact with psychoanalysis occurred when she was taken by her older sisters to a talk given by psychoanalyst Salvador Ferenczi a doctor in the hussar regiment garrisoned in her home-town in Hungary during WW1. His book on psychoanalysis, available in the local bookshop, was purchased by her parents. She told Kirsner,
I secretly pinched it, read it and said, ‘Oh. This is what I want to do’. I was then in the middle of my high school years and I somehow knew I must not study it yet or I would never go through with my planned medical studies.
Geroe successfully completed her studies and became a member of the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society. But by the mid 1930s it was clear that the Jews were under considerable pressure to evacuate Europe.It was becoming clear to Jewish people that Hitler’s regime was no longer willing to tolerate their presence. At the International Psychoanalytic Conference in Paris during 1938 Geroe began exploring the possibility of herself, and five other analysts migrating to New Zealand. However few countries, including New Zealand and Australia, were willing to consider, if at all, taking refugees beyond quotas established in the 1920s. The Evian Conference called by US President Roosevelt had done little to change this. The New Zealand government refused the applications of all six. In Australia Geroe was accepted because, she reckoned, she had a child. It is not clear whether Andrew Peto was one of the six. Refugees were not welcome anywhere, it seems.
From her arrival in late 1940 Geroe was was a central figure in the development of the field and the training of psychoanalysts in Australia. She was instrumental in the beginning of Melbourne’s Children’s Court Clinic and the Koorong School run by Janet and Clive Neild in Melbourne. Western Australian born psychoanalyst Ivy Bennett who practised in Perth during the 1950s remembered the warmth of Geroe’s welcome and her encouragement – ‘before the Graham controversies’ began in the late 1950s – perhaps an allusion to the nascent Kleinian influence which in the 1960s. Andrew Peto did not fare as well. After some years battling the authorities over his qualifications he left Australia for New York where he established his practice and gained recognition. Indeed a little internet search finds him as having delivered the 1978 Brill Memorial Lecture on the subject: Rondanini Pieta: Michelangelo’s Infantile Neurosis’.
In his 2002 book, The Hitler Emigres, a study of the contribution of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany on British culture, historian Daniel Snowman notes that Jewish people were denied entry to a number of the professions. Instead many gained their education in the arts – literature, music, art – deeply educated in these fields. Geroe told Kirsner in 1982:
It is hardly necessary to say that members of the Society were all extremely cultured. Analysis was a cultural and vocational interest and not very lucrative. You had to be a bit of a revolutionary to become interested, to think for yourself and not be with the establishment. Amongst ourselves there was no distinction between medical and non medical people, and nowhere were women treated more equally than in analytic circles. I became very interested in child analysis and worked with Alice Balint in a children’s clinic. Unfortunately it was closed down when the Nazis came. Child analysis was beginning; Melanie Klein had begun working and Anna Freud had written her first book. We had very intimate contact withj Anna Freud and her group; child analysts met weekly in Budapest and Vienna and we would sometimes go on an exchange seminar to Vienna for the weekend.
During the 1940s, the work of these analysts, developments in training and clinical experience, reached the consciousness of artists such as Joy Hester and Albert Tucker.
(Joy Hester – 1945: Frightened Woman).
Both artists responded to the traumas of war – representing the internal agony experienced by many returned soldier, prisoners of war and holocaust survivors – men and women in their art work. Some of Tucker’s series, Images of Modern Evil is captured here.
This exhibition is about ‘sight and insight’ – It is about looking and beginning to see and to think about what might be happening in the minds of oneself and another beneath the surface appearances. it is about learning that intense emotional experiences and mental states can be thought about, talked about in a number of ways: though words, painting music and other forms. Perhaps it is also a plea for the value of the humanities and culture – so often decried these days in the academy – but which in themselves are about the attempt to understand human experience.
The advent of the the National Library’s online digitised newspapers collection enables this historical record to be easily mined – and the discovery that there was widespread interest in this field beyond cities, intellectual elite and artists – in places as far afield, and remote, as were Rockhampton and Cairns in far North Queensland, Broken Hill in far west New South Wales and Kalgoorlie a gold mining town in Western Australia. That said, a search through the newspapers of all the major capital cities may well have yielded results for the historian Joy Damousi, whose book Freud in the Antipodes has also structured this exhibition. I would have liked to see a more representative group of pioneers – from across the country – whose advocacy for understanding the inner world did not find its time. That Bill McCrae sought the support of the British Medical Association in an attempt to establish a psychoanalytic institute at the University of Western Australia in 1943 is missed; that several very talented women – including Ivy Bennett and Ruth Thomas, both from that state, found their way to London and psychoanalytic training with Anna Freud’s group has also been missed. Thomas ane Bennett had in common their experience with the educationalist Professor Robert Cameron at the University of Western Australia during the 1930s and 1940s.
Of course one cannot have everything. It is enough to know that with this exhibition which is touring Australia during the next couple of years, has opened the door to an essential moment in Australian cultural history.