Colonial Australian Fiction: Character Types, Social Formations and the Colonial Economy
Colonial Australian Fiction: Character Types, Social Formations and the Colonial Economy
Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781743324615

Over the course of the nineteenth century a remarkable array of types appeared – and disappeared – in Australian literature: the swagman, the larrikin, the colonial detective, the bushranger, the “currency lass”, the squatter, and more. Some had a powerful influence on the colonies’ developing sense of identity; others were more ephemeral. But all had a role to play in shaping and reflecting the social and economic circumstances of life in the colonies.

In Colonial Australian Fiction: Character Types, Social Formations and the Colonial Economy, Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver explore the genres in which these characters flourished: the squatter novel, the bushranger adventure, colonial detective stories, the swagman’s yarn, the Australian girl’s romance. Authors as diverse as Catherine Helen Spence, Rosa Praed, Henry Kingsley, Anthony Trollope, Henry Lawson, Miles Franklin, Barbara Baynton, Rolf Boldrewood, Mary Fortune and Marcus Clarke were fascinated by colonial character types, and brought them vibrantly to life.

As this book shows, colonial Australian character types are fluid, contradictory and often unpredictable. When we look closely, they have the potential to challenge our assumptions about fiction, genre and national identity.

The preliminary pages and introduction to this work are available free to download at the Sydney eScholarship Repository

About the authors

Ken Gelder is Professor of English and co-Director of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Rachael Weaver is an ARC Senior Research Fellow in English and the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Digital editions

Digital editions of Colonial Australian Fictionare now available from Google Play and the iBookstore. Click the button below to purchase. If you would like more information, or to request another format, please email us.


Introduction: The Colonial Economy and the Production of Colonial Character Types

1 The Reign of the Squatter

2 Bushrangers

3 Colonial Australian Detectives

4 Bush Types and Metropolitan Types

5 The Australian Girl

Works Cited


Sydney Studies in Australian Literature

The Sydney Studies in Australian Literature series publishes original, peer-reviewed research in the field of Australian literature. The series comprises monographs devoted to the works of major authors and themed collections of essays about current issues in the field of Australian literary studies. The series offers well-researched and engagingly written re-evaluations of the nature and importance of Australian literature, and aims to reinvigorate its study both in Australia and internationally.

Also available:

cover image of Alex Miller book

Alex Miller: The Ruin of Time, by Robert Dixon
Alex Miller is a critical survey of the respected Australian novelist’s eleven novels. As Robert Dixon argues, they are books of great imaginative, intellectual and ethical weight.

cover image of Contemporary Australian Literature book

Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead, by Nicholas Birns
Australia: a land of punishment and refuge. In this acclaimed scholarly book, Nicholas Birns tells the story of how Australian novelists, poets and critics, from Patrick White to Hannah Kent, from Alexis Wright to Christos Tsiolkas, responded to this condition. With rancour, concern and idealism, modern Australian literature conveys a tragic sense of the past and yet an abiding vision of the way forward.

cover image of The Fiction of Tim Winton book

The Fiction of Tim Winton: Earthed and Sacred, by Lyn McCredden
Perhaps more than any other Australian writer, Tim Winton challenges neat distinctions between the “literary” and the “popular”. In this study of Winton’s work and career, Lyn McCredden considers how he has bridged the literary–popular divide. She explores his treatment of class, gender, landscape and belonging, and how his engagement with these themes has deepened and changed over time.

cover image of Shirley Hazzard book

Shirley Hazzard: New Critical Essays, edited by Brigitta Olubas
This collection of scholarly writing on Hazzard’s work examines the terrains she crosses: of love, war, beauty, politics and ethics. It takes up questions of the poetics and ethics of her writing, and considers the global and political scope of her fictional universe.

Permanent link to this page: