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Title:A "Greater Britain": colonial kin in fictions of settlement, 1850-1890
Author(s):Joseph, Terra W.
Director of Research:Goodlad, Lauren
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Goodlad, Lauren
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burton, Antoinette M.; Saville, Julia Frances; Nazar, Hina
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):nineteenth-century fiction
settler colonialism
Greater Britain
Abstract:This dissertation traces the ways in which nineteenth-century fictional narratives of white settlement represent “family” as, on the one hand, an abstract theoretical model for a unified and relatively homogenous British settler empire and on the other, a fundamental challenge to ideas about imperial integrity and transnational Anglo-Saxon racial identification. I argue that representations of transoceanic white families in nineteenth-century fictions about Australian settler colonialism negotiate the tension between the bounded domesticity of an insular English nation and the kind of kinship that spans oceans and continents as a result of mass emigration from the British isles to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and the Australian colonies. As such, these fictions construct productive analogies between the familial metaphors and affective language in the political discourse of “Greater Britain”—-a transoceanic imagined community of British settler colonies and their “mother country” united by race and language—-and ideas of family, gender, and domesticity as they operate within specific bourgeois families. Concerns over the disruption of transoceanic families bear testament to contradictions between the idea of a unified imperial identity (both British and Anglo-Saxon), the proliferation of fractured local identities (such as settlers’ English, Irish Catholic, and Australian nationalisms), and the conspicuous absence of indigenous families from narratives of settlement. I intervene at the intersection of postcolonial literary criticism and gender theory by examining the strategic deployments of heteronormative kinship metaphors and metonymies in the rhetorical consolidation of settler colonial space. Settler colonialism was distinct from the “civilizing” domination of subject peoples in South Asia in that it depended on the rhetorical construction of colonial territory as empty space or as land occupied by nearly extinct “primitive” races. This dissertation argues that political rhetoric, travel narratives, and fiction used the image of white female bourgeois reproductive power and sentimental attachment as a technology for settler colonial success, embodying this technology both in the benevolent figure of the metropolitan “mother country” (the paternalistic female counter to the material realities of patriarchal and violent settler colonial practices) and in fictional juxtapositions of happy white settler fecund families with the solitary self-extinguishing figure of the black aboriginal “savage.” Yet even in the narratives where the continuity and coherence of families across imperial space is questioned—-and “Greater Britain” itself—-domesticity and heteronormative familial relations effectively rewrite settler space as white, Anglo-Saxon and bourgeois, and the sentimentalism of troubled European families masks the presence and genocide of indigenous aboriginal peoples. I analyze a range of novels and political texts, canonical and non-canonical, metropolitan and colonial. My introductory first chapter examines the discourse on a “Greater Britain” in the travel narratives of J.A. Froude, Charles Wentworth Dilke, and Anthony Trollope and in the Oxbridge lectures of Herman Merivale and J.R. Seeley. These writers make arguments for an imperial economy of affect circulating between Britain and the settler colonies that reinforces political connections, and at times surpasses the limits of political possibility by relying on the language of sentiment and feeling to build a transoceanic “Greater British” community. Subsequent chapters show how metropolitan and colonial fiction writers, including Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Marcus Clarke, Henry Kingsley, and Catherine Helen Spence, test the viability of this “Greater British” economy of affect by presenting transoceanic family connections and structures straining under the weight of forces including the vast distances between colonies and the “mother country,” settler violence, and the transportation system.
Issue Date:2011-08-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Terra Diana Walston Joseph
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-27
Date Deposited:2011-08

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