Talk: ‘Reading the Colonial Girl’ (19 Oct)

You are invited to a seminar hosted by the Feminist Research Network and the Colonial Settler Studies Network

‘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)

Date: Wednesday 19th October 2016
Time: 4.30 – 6.00 pm
Location: LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072
RSVP: By Wednesday 12th October to Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

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 Nations 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.

Dr Michelle Smith is an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow, Deakin University (‘Beautiful Girls: Consumer Culture in British Literature and Magazines, 1850-1914’). In 2013, she completed an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship (‘From Colonial to Modern: Transnational Girlhood in Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Print Cultures, 1840-1940’ with Prof. Clare Bradford and Dr Kristine Moruzi). She has published: Empire in British Girls’ Literature and Culture: Imperial Girls, 1880-1915 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) (winner of 2012 European Society for the Study of English’s Book Award); with Kristine Moruzi, she is editor of Colonial Girlhood in Literature, Culture and History, 1840-1950 (2014) and a six-volume anthology of girls’ school stories for Routledge’s ‘History of Feminism’ series, Girls’ School Stories, 1749-1929 (2013). She has written articles about topics including feminism, literature and popular culture for The Age, Washington Post, New Statesman, The Drum, and and is the literature columnist for The Conversation. She maintains a blog at: