Indigenous Encounters in Colonial Periodical Fiction, 1840-1890

Indigenous Encounters in Colonial Periodical Fiction, 1840s-1890s

Dr. Sarah Galletly (UCD)

This case study challenges the critical assumption that Indigenous cultures are rarely represented in the popular fiction of colonial Australia. This assumption largely derives from the study of novels, but it does not hold true of periodical fiction. In her recent study, A World of Fiction (2018), Katherine Bode drew attention to a surprisingly large collection of stories featuring Aboriginal characters in nineteenth-century Australian periodicals, arguing that in nineteenth-century periodical fiction ‘the unsettled colonial condition is evoked by depicting, not repressing, the Aboriginal presence’ (2018: 177). These findings identify a large body of periodical fiction featuring indigenous characters that has yet to be examined by scholars for the ways settler writers and readers imagined notions of otherness, co-habitation, and belonging.

This case study focuses on the settler imaginary of the Indigene in the popular print culture of nineteenth-century Australia. Using Bode’s ‘To Be Continued’ database of periodical fiction as a starting point, I will assemble a varied but broadly representative corpus of colonial periodical fiction in order to examine literary encounters and engagements with Aboriginal Australians, Māori, and Pacific Islander peoples and cultures. Such a study will offer new insight into how colonisation was imagined and discursively enacted by white settlers and work to undermine the scholarly narrative of Aboriginal invisibility in early Australian print cultures. It will also consider whether the local audience for colonial periodical fiction invited more regionally specific depictions of Aboriginal and Indigenous cultures, and to what extent, if any, these periodical stories credited and ascribed cultural value to the long history of Indigenous cultures and cultural production pre-colonisation.


Sarah Galletly is an ERC Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at James Cook University, Australia. She completed her PhD at the University of Strathclyde, exploring representations of women’s work in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Canadian fiction. Prior to joining UCD, Dr. Galletly was the Margaret and Colin Roderick Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Literature at JCU, where  she explored depictions of travel, geography, and colonial modernity in Australian print culture in the early twentieth century, and produced the co-authored monograph The Transported Imagination: Australian Interwar Magazines and the Geographical Imaginaries of Colonial Modernity (with Victoria Kuttainen and Susann Liebich, 2018). She also held the role of L.M. Montgomery Institute & Robertson Library Fellow in Digital Humanities at UPEI, where she created new visualisations of digitised archival materials for the Kindred Spaces portal. Dr. Galletly is currently exploring the settler imaginary of the Indigene in the periodical print cultures of nineteenth-century Australia.

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