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Title: 'It is merely crossing [...] the distance is quite imaginary' : textual cultures of settler emigration in nineteenth-century British literature and art
Author: Shaikh, Fariha Najwa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 024X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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During the nineteenth century hundreds of thousands of men, women and children moved away from Britain in search of better lives in the colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand and in North America. This demographic shift was also a textual enterprise. Emigrants themselves wrote about their experiences in their diaries and letters. Their accounts were published in periodicals, memoirs and travel accounts, pamphlets and leaflets. This thesis interrogates the intersections between nineteenth-century colonial emigration and its textual encounters. Settler emigration produced a monumental shift in the way in which ordinary, everyday people in the nineteenth century, regardless of whether or not they emigrated, thought about the ability of text to negotiate the geographical distance separating Britain from her colonies. The literature of emigration set into circulation a new set of issues surrounding notions of home at a distance, a mediated sense of place and the extension of kinship ties over time and space. These concerns were pervasive: they shaped the aesthetic practices of genres that were not directly related to emigration, such as narrative paintings and novels. To this end, this thesis is divided into two parts. The first part looks at the literature arising directly out of the moment of emigration. It is divided into three chapters. The first chapter looks at emigrants’ letters that were printed in order to encourage people to emigrate. The second chapter examines shipboard periodicals that emigrants made during the four-month long voyage to Australia. The third chapter focuses on Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill’s accounts of settlement in Upper Canada in Roughing It in the Bush (1852) and The Backwoods of Canada (1836) respectively. The second part of the thesis takes up the concerns raised by texts studied in the first part and examines how they influence the aesthetic practices of representing distance in narrative paintings and novels. It is divided into two chapters. The fourth chapter focuses on how narrative paintings such as Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England (1855), Richard Redgrave’s The Emigrant’s Last Sight of Home (1858), James Collinson’s Answering the Emigrant’s Letter (1850), Thomas Webster’s A Letter from the Colonies (1852) and Abraham Solomon’s Second Class – the Parting (1854) use emigrants’ letters, advertising bills and other texts in order to explore the troubling effects of emigration on domesticity at home in Britain. The fifth and last chapter of the thesis looks at representations of the textual culture of emigration in Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) and David Copperfield (1850) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848). For both emigrants and those who stayed behind, the experience of nineteenth-century colonial emigration entailed a radical shifting of the way in which one understood one’s relationship to places one inhabited, potentially left behind and possibly might move to. Collectively, across all five chapters, this thesis demonstrates the ways in which emigration culture shaped the aesthetic practices of texts that re-conceptualised what it meant to produce and be part of a widening world.
Supervisor: McDonagh, Josephine ; Pettitt, Clare Jane Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available