Seminar with Dr Michelle Smith

‘Reading the Colonial Girl: The Transnational Feminine Ideal in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Print Culture, 1840-1940’
Presented by Dr Michelle Smith (Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow, Deakin University)
If we truly want to know what kinds of beliefs a culture holds about its women, the most insightful way to find out is to examine the expectations and ideals it professes for the next generation. Girls are a locus for a culture’s hopes and fears for the future. There is significant literature on constructing the 19th century English girl, but not on how this model of femininity was circulated to girl readers around the British Empire. In this paper, I suggest that a transnational girl subject emerges from white settler colonies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand that demonstrated their imperial connections to England, while also redefining them. I look at the ‘imagined community’ of empire girlhood emerging from girls’ print culture. However, I also examine the ways in which race complicates literary attempts to fashion transnational and national femininities through the analysis of Aboriginal, Maori and First Nationa femininities that were often problematically incorporated into girls’ print culture. I will show how indigenous femininities are categorised differently from those of non-indigenous girls in fiction.