Patrick White and Australian Theatrical Modernism: from modern drama to contemporary performance

Professor Denise Varney

This ARC funded Discovery Project (2014-2016) addressed the question of Patrick White, a canonical but contentious novelist, whose contribution to Australian theatrical modernism is under-recognised. This new analysis of White that focused on his drama and the numerous theatrical performances of his plays from 1961 to 2012 aimed to develop a significant new narrative for Australian theatre that maps the journey from modern drama to contemporary performance.

Drawing on the considerable archive of reviews, photographs and annotated scripts, this study of White’s theatre aimed to re-assess the impact of Patrick White on Australian modernism and reposition his work within a twenty-first century context of reception.


About Professor Denise Varney

Denise Varney is Professor of Theatre Studies and co-director of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne where she has also served as Dean (2018) and Deputy Dean (2016-17) in the Faculty of Arts. She teaches Australian Theatre and Performance, and Modern and Contemporary Drama and supervises PhD students in the English and Theatre Studies Program.

Her research is in modern and contemporary theatre and performance with interests in: ecological theatre, theatrical modernism and modernity; feminism; performance affects; identity, gender and ethnicity; and theatre historiography and the archive. She has been lead investigator on three ARC Discovery Projects and contributed to other projects including AusStage. Her latest book is Australian Theatre, Modernism and Patrick White: Governing Culture (2018) co-authored with Sandra D’Urso. Co-edited volumes include Performance Feminism and Affect in Neoliberal Times (Palgrave, 2017) with Elin Diamond and Candice Amich, and Feminist Ecologies: Changing Environments in the Anthropocene with Lara Stevens and Peta Tait (Palgrave, 2018).

Denise Varney academic profile