Crisis or rebirth? The Spiritual flowering of the poet, peace activist and literary critic Dorothy Green

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Dorothy Green (1915-1991) was a feisty yet curiously conservative Australian literary critic-cum-peace activist, with a sharp, angry wit and an intolerance for fools. She was also a deeply religious person who suffered, in laymen’s terms, a major ‘nervous breakdown’ in her mid-40s after the death of her much older husband, the literary historian H. M. Green. While such a midlife collapse could have signalled the closing down of her personality and creativity, it led to the opposite—a flowering of her productivity and an ongoing commitment of her thought and work to compassionate social justice. As a result, the bulk of her poetry and literary criticism was published in the latter half of her life. So too it was in her later years that her deeply-held spiritual beliefs prompted her to become an activist who campaigned vociferously against war and nuclear weapons, and for the environment. This paper looks at Green’s ‘breakdown’ with reference to work on the ‘midlife crisis’ and its spiritual connections by researchers including Jung (1953-79), Erikson (1965), Jaques (1965), Heilbrun (1989), Grof (1990), Wethington (2000) and Wink and Dillon (2002), and Arnold (2005). In so doing, it connects Green’s midlife collapse and her prolific output as an academic and writer in her later years, as well as her deepening spirituality as evidenced by her increasing involvement in social, religious and political activities as she aged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Dorothy Auchterlonie Green
  • spirituality
  • mid-life crisis
  • Australian literature
  • peace activism
  • Henry Mackenzie Green (H M Green)


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