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Imagined Homelands

, 264 pages

12 halftones

November 2017



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Imagined Homelands

British Poetry in the Colonies

Imagined Homelands chronicles the emerging cultures of nineteenth-century British settler colonialism, focusing on poetry as a genre especially equipped to reflect colonial experience. Jason Rudy argues that the poetry of Victorian-era Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada—often disparaged as derivative and uncouth—should instead be seen as vitally engaged in the social and political work of settlement. The book illuminates cultural pressures that accompanied the unprecedented growth of British emigration across the nineteenth century. It also explores the role of poetry as a mediator between familiar British ideals and new colonial paradigms within emerging literary markets from Sydney and Melbourne to Cape Town and Halifax.

Rudy focuses on the work of poets both canonical—including Tennyson, Browning, Longfellow, and Hemans—and relatively obscure, from Adam Lindsay Gordon, Susanna Moodie, and Thomas Pringle to Henry Kendall and Alexander McLachlan. He examines in particular the nostalgic relations between home and abroad, core and periphery, whereby British emigrants used both original compositions and canonical British works to imagine connections between their colonial experiences and the lives they left behind in Europe.

Drawing on archival work from four continents, Imagined Homelands insists on a wider geographic frame for nineteenth-century British literature. From lyrics printed in newspapers aboard emigrant ships heading to Australia and South Africa, to ballads circulating in New Zealand and Canadian colonial journals, poetry was a vibrant component of emigrant life. In tracing the histories of these poems and the poets who wrote them, this book provides an alternate account of nineteenth-century British poetry and, more broadly, of settler colonial culture.

Jason R. Rudy is an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Electric Meters: Victorian Physiological Poetics.

"Compelling, gorgeously written, and richly researched, Imagined Homelands is a salvo that could blow open the doors of scholarship on nineteenth-century poetry. No reader will leave this book without a clear sense of how his or her understanding of nineteenth-century poetry has been forever enlarged and enriched."

"An important, meticulously researched, and deeply learned contribution to the study of empire, poetry, and British colonialism in the nineteenth century, Imagined Homelands charts its own new and very original territory."

"Drawing on neglected archives of remarkable range—both geographical and formal—Imagined Homelands explores the power of poetry in shaping individual and collective identity among settlers struggling to forge a sense of home in unfamiliar lands. This is a fascinating account of both poetry and British colonialism."

"In this groundbreaking study, Jason Rudy throws new light on the place of poetry in Britain’s colonies. Compellingly, Rudy shows literature helped shape colonial attitudes and practices. It is a brilliant piece of scholarship that makes us rethink our views about cultural reproduction, and the social and political work that genre performs."

"Drawing on extensive archival work on four continents, Rudy’s vibrant investigative study moves deftly among the colonial poetries of Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, with particular emphasis on the first two, and finds fascinating examples of direct copying, echoic referencing and inventive reconstruction of British verse techniques in such diverse media as shipboard newspapers, colonial anthologies, exhibition performances and individual collections."

"Writing with erudition and depth and in an engaging, accessible style, Rudy brings poets such as Australian Henry Kendall and Canadian Isabella Valancy Crawford, long dismissed by "commonplace assumptions about colonial derivativeness" (chapter 1), into world literature."

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