Exoticising Colonial History: British Authors’ Australian Convict Novels

  • Therese-M. Meyer


The historical novel, which from its origins was intended as a ‘vehicle for the constant intertwining of present and past’ (Hamnett, 2006, p. 32), can be expected to ‘signal a discourse community’s norms, epistemology, ideology, and social ontology’ (Berkenkotter and Huckin, 1993, p. 475). Since 1830, Australia has continued to develop its own brand of historical fiction in the convict novel, which now encompasses more than eighty texts by Australian authors, many canonised, some deservedly forgotten. The genre’s hybridity, typical of the historical novel proper (de Groot, 2010, p. 2), emerges from its fusion of memoirs, romance, Gothic, Realist, Naturalist and Newgate novels. Nine texts have so far been analysed in Laurie Hergenhan’s Unnatural Lives (1983), though he has refused to attempt a generic definition and eschews comparisons, pointing instead to the diversity of form that Australian convict fiction shares with the historical novel (1983, pp. 6–7, 10, 12).


Penal System Colonial Past British Author Imperialist History Fictional Author 
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© Therese-M. Meyer 2014

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