Professor Sue Martin on 19th Century Australian Literature and Archives

On Day Two of the Teacher-Researchers Pilot, Professor Sue Martin from La Trobe University gave an account of her research in the archive investigating:

  • Literary themes in 19th century Australian literature
  • The circulation of 19th century texts
  • Ephemera
  • Frontispieces
  • Paratextual information
  • Advertising

Professor Martin went into detail on some texts she’d studied. For example, Younah!: A Tasmanian Aboriginal Romance of the Cataract Gorge and critiqued how as a narrative of a white settler child being stolen by Aboriginal people operates as an inversion of what was historically happening in Australia during the time it was written (1890s). In addition, while representing a typical ‘noble savage’ style narrative that were more typical in the 1800s. Teacher-researchers discussed how they could compare the novel with current writing and trouble accepted literary history.

Professor Martin  gave examples of 19th century novels that had advertising in them including The Newest Woman: The Destined Monarch of the World, a speculative fiction novel by Millie Finkelstein where women ruled the world, which included ads for beer, betting agents, and phrenologists inside the original publication.

The teacher-researchers discussed how literature circulated in the 19th century, to and from the colonies of Britain on the same boats as personal letters. They thought about how that might have impacted the way colonisation may have been represented as idea(l) or reality through fiction and personal correspondence.

The session ended with a discussion of Trove as a way of researching what was being read, locally in regional papers of the time, with prompts for secondary school teaching and learning.