Literature and Theatre

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Southern worlds, globes, and spheres
Sarah Comyn and Porscha Fermanis

The introduction to this collection proposes a new literary history of the Anglophone southern hemisphere in the long nineteenth century. Drawing on the methodologies of ‘worlding’, southern theory, hemispheric analysis, and Indigenous studies, it rethinks the conceptual paradigms, periodisations, and canons of the nineteenth-century ‘British world’ by focusing on southern cultural perspectives in multiple regional centres from Cape Town to the Pacific Islands. Adopting a perspective that Isabel Hofmeyr has called a ‘southern latitude’, it argues for the importance of considering the shared and interconnected histories of imperialism, colonialism, and structural inequality that shape the literatures and experiences of the peoples of the southern colonies, deprioritising Eurocentric orientations and identities in favour of southern viewpoints and south–south relations across a complex of oceanic and terracentric spaces. Considering each of the chapters within the collection as part of a related unit of literary and cultural analysis, its aim is to produce a more inclusive literary model of the nineteenth century that takes into account southern histories of cultural estrangement and marginalisation and draws its proof-texts from so-called ‘minor’ and ‘minority’ writers, as well as identifying shared thematic concerns, literary forms and tropes, and aesthetic and stylistic practices that are distinctive to the region.

in Worlding the south
An unexpected text in an unexpected place
Michelle Elleray

In 1850 the London Missionary Society published ‘Kiro’s Thoughts about England’, consisting of translated and abridged excerpts from the travel journal of Kiro, a Cook Islander from the South Pacific who had arrived in England in 1847. Originally intended for Cook Islanders, through its publication in the Juvenile Missionary Magazine Kiro’s journal instead becomes a narrative for British children. Kiro’s writing prompts us to consider how we are to read literary texts by peoples disempowered through imperial processes, when those texts are only deemed worthy of publication and preservation through their conformity with the dominant structures of power, in this case the London Missionary Society and its British Protestant norms. How do we wrest such texts from the evangelical framework that enabled their publication? How do we position the text’s observance of evangelical expectations within a spectrum from accommodation to consent? What work is done by the editor’s silent selections and elisions in the process of publication? In disentangling Kiro’s text from a pervasive British missionary ontology, this essay demonstrates the agency of Pacific Islanders as they negotiated the new technology of alphabetic literacy, a literacy accessed through Christianity, but not restricted to the cultural parameters of British evangelicalism.

in Worlding the south
Clara Tuite

This chapter engages the rich social, linguistic, and aesthetic repertoire of the flash (originally a cant language of thieves and convicts), using the convict phenomenon of ‘lag fever’ to complicate the idea of colonial belatedness in Australia. It argues that the flash language of thieves, gypsies, and convicts can be understood as an early kind of ‘world language’ that connected underclasses with upper classes within and across metropolitan Regency London and the southern climes and convict spaces of colonial Australia (Botany Bay, Newcastle, and Van Diemen’s Land). Connecting genealogies of masculine style and self-fashioning, and print-visual form, with the social arenas of fashionability, respectability, exile, convictism, and settler culture across Britain, Ireland, Europe, and Australia, this chapter throws new light on the liminal yet transformative Regency cultures of scandalous celebrity, exile, and convictism.

in Worlding the south
Globes, panoramas, fictions, and oceans
Peter Otto

This chapter considers how the first full-scale panorama of Sydney, ‘A View of the Town of Sydney’, exhibited at Robert Burford’s Leicester Square Panorama from 1828 until at least March 1831, conjured an Umwelt rather than just a view or prospect. As an object able to be viewed from numerous points of view, its hyper-realistic illusion aroused audience interest in how it had been constructed, which in turn suggested that the actual world, like the panorama’s virtual world, is an appearance within material, psychological, and cultural systems of perception. In this hybrid, fictional space, the real and the imaginary, the objective and the mythological, settler and colonised, even settlement and unsettlement move into surprising proximity with each other.

in Worlding the south
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Thomas Baines on expedition to the coronation of Cetshwayo kaMpande, Zululand, 1873
Lindy Stiebel

In 1873 Thomas Baines – explorer, artist and cartographer – joined the retinue of Theophilus Shepstone, then Secretary for Native Affairs in the colony of Natal, into Zululand to ‘crown’ Cetshwayo as Zulu king. As Special Correspondent to the Natal Mercury, Baines wrote comprehensive descriptions of the events in which he took part. Moreover, Baines’ participation in the ‘coronation’ encouraged him to produce a detailed map of Zululand, now housed in the Royal Geographical Society in London. This map sheds light on the geo-political state of Natal at that time while also suggesting the later dramatic changes in Anglo-Zulu relations. Baines’ friendship with William Emery Robarts en route also yielded a sketch, journal entries, and a sketch map held in the Robarts family archives. The purpose of this chapter is to look more closely at Baines on his last expedition as a writer and mapper of settler interests using the above mentioned resources.

in Worlding the south
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Cultural geographies of poetry in colonial Aotearoa
Nikki Hessell

This chapter examines the ways in which Thomas Babington Macaulay’s verse was used to articulate the cultural, literary, and political aspirations of nineteenth-century Māori in Aotearoa. The chapter centres around the Ngāti Porou rangatira (chief) Mōkena Kōhere (?–1894), a leading figure in the politics of late-nineteenth-century Aotearoa, and the way in which Kōhere’s words, actions, and legacies were framed via lines from Macaulay’s poems. It treats poetry generally, and Macaulay’s poetry in this instance, as a literary example of what the legal historian Mark Hickford has called ‘portals of communicability’ in Aotearoa’s colonial relationships.

in Worlding the south
Manu Samriti Chandler

Nineteenth-century British Guiana witnessed the rise of multiple, conflicting reading audiences, who collided over matters political and aesthetic. The colonial situation was complicated: Afro-creole Guianese periodical culture was defined directly in opposition to the oral cultures of native Blacks and Indians, who were understood to be objects of discussion but never serious participants within the public sphere. Discussing the representation of oral traditions across a range of missionary texts and Guianese journals, this chapter demonstrates the ways in which the ‘reading nation’ is constructed against the speaking tribe, grounding ideas of humanity in the capacity to read and thereby participate fully in the social life of the colony. Focusing on the poetry of Egbert Martin (1861–90), the chapter argues that the Guianese literati capitalised on assumptions about Black and Indian natives’ illiteracy to signal to European audiences the relative value of Guianese readers and writers, and to substantiate claims of ‘Creole indigeneity’ at the expense of Indigenous peoples. By way of conclusion, the chapter suggests that decolonising cultural recognition not only involves the refusal of recognition from the Global North but also offering recognition to Amerindian communities.

in Worlding the south
The island as collective in the works of Louis Becke
Jennifer Fuller

This chapter repositions the overlooked short stories of Australian-born author Louis Becke as a colonial experiment in archipelagic writing. By examining the stories as a collective, readers are able to view the South Seas of the colonial imagination as a networked vision defined by circulation and exchange. To this end, this chapter offers a reading of each of the stories of Becke’s first collection, By Reef and Palm (1894), allowing readers to construct a literary world. By shifting between story and anthology, the singular tale and the collective experience, Becke attempts to narrate the process of globalisation. By refusing to allow a single narrative or viewpoint to dominate the collection, Becke moves readers into a network of literature than can only be fully understood in an interdependent, transoceanic context.

in Worlding the south
Literary appreciation, comparatism, and universalism in the Straits Chinese Magazine
Porscha Fermanis

This chapter considers the ways in which the Straits Chinese Magazine (est. 1897) negotiates the dual commitment to comparatism and universalism that underpinned late-nineteenth-century justifications of empire. Focusing on cultural forms of knowledge such as linguistic standardisation, vernacular education, literary appreciation, and canonicity, it argues that the idea of a ‘universal subject’ is mobilised by the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia to minimise the fetishisation of Chinese difference, to situate Chinese culture within European comparative frameworks, and to produce an equivalence of cultural judgement and taste. Yet despite its apparent investment in the logic and rhetoric of imperial liberalism, the magazine’s intense engagement with the asymmetries of liberal thought turns European comparatism on its head, encouraging a reversal of the comparative gaze and an exposition of the defective use of empirical methodologies by European comparatists. The magazine’s desire to establish commensurability between Chinese and European worlds is therefore ultimately read as part of an anticolonial project, one that exposes the Eurocentric grounds on which comparisons are made at a time when the increasingly racialised regulation of imperial citizenship undermined the possibility of self-determination for Asian subjects within the British Empire.

in Worlding the south
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Elleke Boehmer

Centring its insights in the border-traversing, world-opening capacities of imaginative southern writing and reading, this chapter offers a closing meditation on some of the more elusive meanings and heuristics of the south that the collection calls up. Inspired by the same critical orientations that the collection explores, it questions the extent to which the conceptual and historical remoteness of the south can ever be fully perceived and understood in geo-epistemological terms, arguing that southness will perhaps always elude northern analysis to some degree, its local and indigenous detail always slipping just beyond the frame. Efforts to re-territorialise global intellectual production therefore face a significant philosophical challenge that cannot be solved by a critical theory predicated on dominant northern constructs. To see the ‘south in the world’ means not just contemplating the world from the various perspectives and orientations of its different southerly regions and their histories, but also looking to the side, beyond ‘centres in modernity’, towards ‘composite and overlapping’ Black and Indigenous realities. The south thus both invites and makes possible archipelagic readings and heuristics, encouraging us to think connectively and fluidly through and across its spaces. Resistance emerges out of the structural flaws, gaps, broken links, and ellipses that are endemic to any colonial-type assertion of planetary consciousness.

in Worlding the south