Colonial Australian Fiction

Character Types, Social Formations and the Colonial Economy

Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver

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Format: paperback
162 pages
ISBN: 9781743324615

Publication: 07 Apr 2017
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature
Publisher: Sydney University Press

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Over the course of the 19th century a remarkable array of character types appeared – and disappeared – in Australian literature: the swagman, the larrikin, the colonial detective, the bushranger, the ‘currency lass’, the squatter, and more. Some had a powerful influence on the colonies’ developing sense of identity; others were more ephemeral. But all had a role to play in shaping and reflecting the social and economic circumstances of life in the colonies.

In Colonial Australian Fiction: Character Types, Social Formations and the Colonial Economy, Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver explore the genres in which these characters flourished: the squatter novel, the bushranger adventure, colonial detective stories, the swagman’s yarn, the Australian girl’s romance. Authors as diverse as Catherine Helen Spence, Rosa Praed, Henry Kingsley, Anthony Trollope, Henry Lawson, Miles Franklin, Barbara Baynton, Rolf Boldrewood, Mary Fortune and Marcus Clarke were fascinated by colonial character types, and brought them vibrantly to life.

As this book shows, colonial Australian character types are fluid, contradictory and often unpredictable. When we look closely, they have the potential to challenge our assumptions about fiction, genre and national identity.

Ken Gelder is professor of English and theatre studies at the University of Melbourne.

Rachael Weaver is an ARC research fellow in the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne.


Introduction: the colonial economy and the production of colonial character types

  1. The reign of the squatter
  2. Bushrangers
  3. Colonial Australian detectives
  4. Bush types and metropolitan types
  5. The Australian girl

Works cited

'For those researching, studying or teaching in the field of Australian literary studies, Colonial Australian Fiction makes an insightful, illuminating and necessary companion. Gelder’s and Weaver’s continued efforts in bringing such research to the fore are commendable.'
Tobias McCorkell   Journal of Postcolonial Writing

'Gelder and Weaver combine their expertise in Australian literary studies to produce a rich study of character types in colonial Australian fiction, including how these types evolve and mutate over time'
Robyn Greaves   Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL)

'The authors are to be congratulated for drawing attention to the amount and variety of fiction about Australian life published during the nineteenth-century. This book is an entertaining read as well as a scholarly one, drawing on extensive research into primary sources as well as a wide range of critical and historical work.'
Elizabeth Webby   Australian Literary Studies

'An elegant and very informative review of character types in colonial Australian fiction ... Colonial Australian Fiction is an essential volume for anyone curious about Australian literary heritage.'
Dr Rachel Franks   The Dictionary of Sydney

'Many character types are identified in this meticulously researched study.'
Barry Oakley   The Australian

Format: paperback
Size: 250 × 176 × 12 mm
162 pages
Copyright: © 2017
ISBN: 9781743324615
Publication: 07 Apr 2017
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature