Settler Colonialism in Victorian Literature: Economics and Political Identity in the Networks of Empire
At the beginning of his 1873 Australasian travelogue, Anthony Trollope observed that the future prospects of Australia and New Zealand “involved the happiness of millions to come of English-speaking men and women” while noting that “it has been impossible to avoid speculations as to their future prospects”. Philip Steer’s carefully-argued study of colonial settler writing in and about the Antipodes considers the cultural exchange between the Australasian colonies and the mother country, noting the importance of colonial culture to English realist writing. Positioning his work as a “sustained reckoning with Edward Gibbon Wakefield”, for Steer “the evolving frenzy of exploitation and transformation in the settler colonies put pressure on metropolitan forms of the novel and political economy, and provided new conceptual vocabularies for understanding British society and subjectivity”. In order to examine some of this pressure, Steer considers a range of authors—Victorian celebrities like Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, alongside lesser-known writers including Catherine Spence and Henry Crocker Marriott Watson. He also seeks to re-evaluate how settler colonialism sits within Victorian writing generally, making a very convincing case for reconsidering the sense of overseas settlements as simply convenient places to which problematic characters might be banished.
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