Literature and Theatre

Reading Robinson Crusoe in colonial New Zealand
Jane Stafford

This chapter examines the influence of British literary models on colonial and Indigenous readings practices. Robinson Crusoe was widely read in colonial New Zealand, and widely cited as a model for successful settlement. It was translated into te reo Māori (the Māori language) in 1852 in the hope that Crusoe’s qualities of industriousness and self-reliance might be influential. As far as can be gauged, Māori readers were cautious in their response. The colonist Henry Weekes hoped to emulate Crusoe when in 1845 he bought an island, Puketutu, in the Manakau Harbour, near Auckland. But, as he records in his journal, despite patronage and support from the local Māori of Ihumātao and the assistance of his ‘Friday’, a Pākehā (European) servant, his efforts were unsuccessful.

in Worlding the south
Louisa Atkinson’s recasting of the Australian landscape
Grace Moore

In 1857 Louisa Atkinson became the first Australian-born woman to publish a novel, Gertrude the Emigrant. Atkinson was already an accomplished nature writer and illustrator whose botanical columns appeared regularly in the Sydney press. Her novels are notable for their detailed attention to Australian plant life, while her bushscapes are remarkably vivid, and several of her works feature dramatic accounts of bushfires. As a naturalist, Atkinson was particularly attuned to outback ecology, and fire scenes are much more than fleeting plot devices designed to bring about dramatic rescues. She resists the settler propensity to contain the landscape by representing it through a lens of the sublime, revelling in its difference, rather than attempting to understand it on European terms. Drawing on Atkinson’s nature writing as well as her fiction, this chapter will examine her depictions of bushfire and land clearances to critique settler understandings of the Australian natural world. Focusing particularly on her fire stories, it will consider how her depictions of fire are distinct from those of her contemporaries and how her writings promote respect for the bush, and critique what Rob Nixon has termed the ‘slow violence’ of settler culture.

in Worlding the south
Rachael Weaver

This chapter traces the development of the colonial kangaroo hunt as a transnational narrative genre. John Hunter’s First Fleet journal (1793) presented the generic conventions that came to define the colonial kangaroo hunt narrative: casting the kangaroo as fitting quarry and giving an exciting account of the chase and the kill. The chapter goes on to map the subsequent transnationalisation of the kangaroo as scientific details and live specimens were shipped back to Europe. Zoological gardens and acclimatisation societies in Europe contributed to the development of the kangaroo hunt as a recognised recreational activity outside Australia. The kangaroo hunt was absorbed into a global narrative to do with travel and adventure, which also informed readers about species biodiversity in the Global South. These themes were explored in novels by Sarah Bowdich Lee and Emilia Marryat Norris, which are analysed alongside narratives and artworks by Europeans who visited Australia to take part in kangaroo hunts. The chapter concludes that –whether encountered when exploring, wandering, bivouacking, settling, or hunting professionally – the kangaroo hunt is represented as an essential experience both in colonial Australia and abroad, one that unfolds in the contexts of imperialism and empire, military occupation, exploration and settlement, developments in the natural sciences, and transnational narratives of adventure.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Petitions, politics, and the African Christian converts of the nineteenth century
Hlonipha Mokoena

This chapter demonstrates how Indigenous peoples in Africa could mobilise missionary networks, print technologies, and new literacies to develop their own cultural and political agency through the genre of the petition. In its multiple iterations, the petition marked the sites of contestation between not just converts and the British government but also black professionals, black journalists, black clergy, and other marginalised groups in the emerging literary culture of nineteenth-century South Africa. Even ‘illiterate’ African kings would occasionally appear as signatories to such petitions. As a genre of political writing, the petition serves not only the function of delineating the political from the civil, but, as this chapter shows, is in itself a sign of the penetration of literature into the consciousness and daily experiences of those who were by law British subjects but who were in practice excluded from the colonial privileges that accompanied subjugation.

in Worlding the south
William Burchell’s Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa
Matthew Shum

This chapter examines William Burchell’s Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa. It begins by examining Burchell’s status as a naturalist and argues that, though his observations were to be used by others for instrumental purposes, his understanding of the natural world was primarily guided by an ‘Orphic’ rather than a utilitarian approach. The bulk of the chapter then considers Burchell’s volatile relations with Indigenous people, in particular the San. Central to my consideration of these interactions is the fact that Burchell travelled mainly as a lone European, without any significant ability to impose his will on the people he encountered. He was thus acutely dependent on the degree of reciprocation he received from Indigenous people. To navigate this uncertain human territory, Burchell employs the literary registers of the ‘man of feeling’. The result is a revealing if uneven attempt at sympathetic interaction that opens up the possibility of transactional rather than hierarchical modes of relationship in the colonial context.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies

This collection brings together for the first time literary studies of British colonies in nineteenth-century Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Drawing on hemispheric studies, Indigenous studies, and southern theory to decentre British and other European metropoles, the collection offers a latitudinal challenge to national paradigms and traditional literary periodisations and canons by proposing a new literary history of the region that is predicated less on metropolitan turning points and more on southern cultural perspectives in multiple regional centres from Cape Town to Dunedin. With a focus on southern orientations, southern audiences, and southern modes of addressivity, Worlding the south foregrounds marginal, minor, and neglected writers and texts across a hemispheric complex of southern oceans and terrains. Drawing on an ontological tradition that tests the dominance of networked theories of globalisation, the collection also asks how we can better understand the dialectical relationship between the ‘real’ world in which a literary text or art object exists and the symbolic or conceptual world it shows or creates. By examining the literary processes of ‘worlding’, it demonstrates how art objects make legible homogenising imperial and colonial narratives, inequalities of linguistic power, textual and material violence, and literary and cultural resistance. With contributions from leading scholars in nineteenth-century literary and cultural studies, the collection revises literary histories of the ‘British world’ by arguing for the distinctiveness of settler colonialism in the southern hemisphere, and by incorporating Indigenous, diasporic, settler, and other southern perspectives.

Open Access (free)
Food and Identity in His Life and Fiction
Emily Na

This article traces how the queer Black writer James Baldwin’s transnational palate and experiences influenced the ways he wrote about Black domestic spaces in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, while Black feminist cooks and writers like Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor developed new theories of soul food in relation to the Black American community and broader American cuisine, Baldwin incorporated these philosophies and transnational tastes into his lifestyle and works. He traveled and worked around Europe, settling in places like Paris, Istanbul, and Saint-Paul de Vence for years at a time. In Saint-Paul de Vence, where he spent his last years, he set up his own welcome table, at which he hosted internationally renowned guests and shared his love of cuisine. Inevitably, Baldwin’s passion for cooking and hosting meals became a large, though scholarly neglected, component of his novels and essays. In his novels Another Country, which he finished in Istanbul and published in 1962, and Just Above My Head, which he finished in Saint-Paul de Vence and published in 1979, Baldwin’s depictions of food and Black kitchens take a queer turn. Instead of lingering on traditional Black family structures, these texts specifically present new formulations of intimate home life and reimagine relationships between food, kitchens, race, and sex in the late twentieth century.

James Baldwin Review
Between “Stranger in the Village” and I Am Not Your Negro
Jovita dos Santos Pinto, Noémi Michel, Patricia Purtschert, Paola Bacchetta, and Vanessa Naef

James Baldwin’s writing, his persona, as well as his public speeches, interviews, and discussions are undergoing a renewed reception in the arts, in queer and critical race studies, and in queer of color movements. Directed by Raoul Peck, the film I Am Not Your Negro decisively contributed to the rekindled circulation of Baldwin across the Atlantic. Since 2017, screenings and commentaries on the highly acclaimed film have prompted discussions about the persistent yet variously racialized temporospatial formations of Europe and the U.S. Stemming from a roundtable that followed a screening in Zurich in February 2018, this collective essay wanders between the audio-visual and textual matter of the film and Baldwin’s essay “Stranger in the Village,” which was also adapted into a film-essay directed by Pierre Koralnik, staging Baldwin in the Swiss village of Leukerbad. Privileging Black feminist, postcolonial, and queer of color perspectives, we identify three sites of Baldwin’s transatlantic reverberations: situated knowledge, controlling images, and everyday sexual racism. In conclusion, we reflect on the implications of racialized, sexualized politics for today’s Black feminist, queer, and trans of color movements located in continental Europe—especially in Switzerland and France.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
Reading James Baldwin’s Existential Hindsight in Go Tell It on the Mountain
Miller Wilbourn

This essay reads James Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, through the lenses of European existentialism and Black existential thought to arrive at a new understanding of the novel itself as well as essential stages of its development. Archival sources and close reading reveal Baldwin’s historically and existentially informed artistic vision, summed up in the terms hindsight and insight. His thoughtful, uncomfortable engagement with the past leads to a recuperated relationship to the community and constitutes existential hindsight, which informs his inward understanding of himself—his insight. This investigation draws on various works from Baldwin’s fiction, essays, interviews, and correspondence to arrive at a better understanding of the writer’s intellectual and artistic development, focusing especially on the professed objectives behind, and major revisions of, the novel. I conclude the essay through a close reading of the conversion scene that constitutes Part Three of Go Tell It on the Mountain.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
Black Women as Surrogates of Liberation in James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk
Marquita R. Smith

This essay analyzes how James Baldwin’s late novel If Beale Street Could Talk represents Black women’s care work in the face of social death as an example of how Black women act as surrogates for Black liberation giving birth to a new world and possibilities of freedom for Black (male) people. Within the politics of Black nationalism, Black women were affective workers playing a vital role in the (re)creation of heteronormative family structures that formed the basis of Black liberation cohered by a belief in the power of patriarchy to make way for communal freedom. This essay demonstrates how Beale Street’s imagining of freedom centers not on what Black women do to support themselves or each other, but on the needs of the community at large, with embodied sacrifice as a presumed condition of such liberation.

James Baldwin Review