Publication Details

Clark, M. 2013, '"I" and "You" as fragile fabrications of the imagination: Betty Roland's The Eye of the Beholder', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 363-376.


Betty Roland (1903–1996) is perhaps best known as a career dramatist for stage and radio in Australia and the United Kingdom. But Roland was also a prolific contributor to a print-culture that encompassed the influences of other countries in which she travelled, worked, and lived. These included (Stalinist) Russia in the 1930s, England in the 1950s, and Greece in the 1960s. In fact, there are few zones of literature into which the Australian-born Roland did not venture between the late 1920s and 1990. Her body of work comprises, for example, three volumes of autobiography, a travel memoir, four children’s books, four romance novels, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as film and comic book scripts. Roland’s artistic temperament, liberal social views and left-wing political stance, meant she was a part of male-dominated bohemian cultures and radical art theatre movements in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1930s and 40s. Her auto/biographical book, The Eye of the Beholder (1984), which is the subject of this essay, is ostensibly a study of Montsalvat, an artist’s colony, which was established in 1935 near Melbourne, Victoria. However, the book is principally concerned with Roland’s love–hate relationship with the colony’s founder, Justus Jörgensen. Roland writes herself into the time and space of Montsalvat to create an auto/biographical script where “I” and “You” are reimagined and brought together. In Roland’s retrospective narrative, past selves are objectified through the act of writing them in the present. As a consequence, the boundaries between auto/biography and fiction are blurred.



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