'Percy Bysshe Shelley once described poets as the 'unacknowledged legislators of the world'. If this is true, Australian political scientists have shown curiously little interest in the role that literary figures play in the nation's political life.
'Novel Politics takes the relationship between literature and politics seriously, analysing the work of six writers, each the author of a classic text about Australian society. These authors bridge the history of local writing, from pre-Federation colonial Australia (Catherine Spence, Rosa Praed and Catherine Martin) to the contemporary moment (Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas and Kim Scott). Novel Politics unpicks the many political threads woven into these books, as they document the social world as it exists, while suggesting new possibilities for the nation's future. As political commentators of a particular kind, all six authors offer unique insights into the deeper roots of politics in Australia, beyond the theatre of parliament and out into the wider social world, as imagined by its dreamers and criticised by its most incisive discontents.'(Publication summary)
'Victorian settler fiction produced in colonial Australia and New Zealand increasingly expressed a search for settler identity, and yet it partly remained targeted at readers “at home,” at the centre of the British Empire. Nineteenth-century novels of daily life in the colonial settlements, therefore, also functioned as fictional maps for readers in Victorian Britain and elsewhere in the expanding empire. While some of these publications explicitly addressed potential emigrants, others endeavoured to reshape Britain’s antipodes in the popular imagination more generally. Australian and New Zealand women writers dismantled clichés involving bush-rangers, gold-diggers, as well as escaped convicts and resented returnees. By drawing on a variety of settler novels by female authors, I aim to track how their fictional maps for readers overseas worked and how these maps shifted in the course of the century. In particular, I focus on the motif of the homecoming and how its reworking in nineteenth-century settler fiction reveals shifting attitudes towards emigration and empire, homemaking and homecoming, old and new homes.'
'Scottish-born author Catherine Helen Spence's 1854 novel Clara Morison is a landmark in Australian literary history and has often been identified as the first work of fiction about Australia written by a woman. Eschewing the now more prominent iconography of the Australian bush, the novel focuses almost exclusively on domestic spaces and women's experiences. This article considers Spence's preoccupation with the domestic in relation to Edward Gibbon Wakefield's ideas of 'Systematic Colonisation'. In his writings Wakefield identified a crucial role for women in the development of the British settler colonies as wives and mothers. This article argues that Spence engages with this context by drawing upon the nationally figurative role of the marriage plot in contemporary writing to explore and complicate the gender roles which underwrote the development of Australia's first and only Wakefieldian colony.' (Publication summary)
'This article inverts the title of Hayden White's 1974 essay 'The Historical Text as Literary Artifact' by exploring literary texts as historical artifacts. It uses three novels published by Australian women writers in the mid-nineteenth century - Catherine Helen Spence's Clara Morison (1854), Caroline Louisa Atkinson's Gertrude the Emigrant (1857), and Mary Theresa Vidal's 'Bengala, or Some Time Ago' (1860) - 'as historical sources to explore the emotional culture of colonial Australia in regard to romantic love. Following Sarah Pinto, this article takes the romantic couple as the centre of its analysis, and asks four key questions of the novels in the corpus: What kind of people fall in love? Who do they fall in love with? What kind of love do they fall in? And how do their lives and their loves interact with the colonial Australian landscape? It finds that romantic love in these novels is dependent on romanticised similarity and shared sensibility rather than eroticised otherness. It argues that while this might not necessarily be uniquely nationally distinctive, the Australian chronotopic context means that this narrative would have strong and specific resonances with a female colonial audience.' (Publication abstract)