CFP: [Victorian] NEMLA 2009: Victorians Down Under

full name / name of organization: 
Christie Harner

Panel: Victorians Down Under

40th Anniversary Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

Feb. 26-March 1, 2009

Hyatt Regency - Boston, Massachusetts

In Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, the Micawber family immigrates to
Australia; in Great Expectations, Magwitch returns to England after his
stint in the colony’s convict system. In Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady
Audley’s Secret, George Talboys migrates to Australia and then returns to
England; Anthony Trollope’s eponymous John Caldigate completes the same
circuit. Again and again in Victorian literature, characters travel to or
from the infant colony, departing and re-entering the boundaries of both
England and the English novels. Only on rare occasions, most notably in the
two Australia novels of Anthony Trollope, does an English novelist narrate
the space of the colony itself.

This panel seeks to explore the relationship between Victorian English
literature and the Australian context that it struggled to portray. Why was
it easier to fictionalize the journey; what was “un-narratable” about the
Australian experience, landscape, or lifestyle? What alternative fictions
did Victorian writers construct when they did narrate life in Australia?
More significantly, what English morals, laws, or social structures could
not be contained within an “Australian” novel? Were any tropes of Victorian
literature inconsistent with novelistic portrayals of the young colony? How
did English novels pose questions about the “unknowability” of colonial
life? Finally, how did nineteenth-century Australian authorsâ€"most often
writing for an English audienceâ€"reconfigure the problem of narrating
colonial space?

Most current scholarship on nineteenth-century Australia explores the
usefulness of the colony for Victorian England. According to this
perspective, Australia was a space for convicts, for redundant women
needing husbands, and for families escaping unemployment and economic
depression in England. My panel, on the other hand, seeks to redirect this
critical inquiry and to introduce an opposing question: why was Australia
so problematic for Victorian writers and thinkers? Why was it so often
un-narratable? What gaps inevitably remained between the tropes of the
Victorian novel and the colonial space it attempted to fictionalize? With
this panel, I seek to initiate a new conversation on the role of Australia
and Australian plot lines in the Victorian English novel. In addition, I
hope that this panel will include the voices of (usually unknown)
nineteenth-century Australian authors, writing for an English audience and
so struggling equally to narrate their new environment.
Please email 250-500 word proposals to Christie Harner
Deadline: September 15, 2008

Please include with your abstract:

Name and Affiliation

Email address

Postal address

Telephone number

A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee)

The complete Call for Papers for the 2009 Convention will be posted in

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA panel;
however panelists can only present one paper. Convention participants may
present a paper at a panel or seminar and also present at a creative
session or participate in a roundtable.

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Received on Tue Jul 08 2008 - 12:31:53 EDT