Victorian Popular Fictions 1.2 article 3


The Antipodes of Victorian Fiction: Mapping “Down Under”

 Tamara S. Wagner

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Victorian settler fiction produced in colonial Australia and New Zealand increasingly expressed a search for settler identity, and yet it partly remained targeted at readers “at home,” at the centre of the British Empire. Nineteenth-century novels of daily life in the colonial settlements, therefore, also functioned as fictional maps for readers in Victorian Britain and elsewhere in the expanding empire. While some of these publications explicitly addressed potential emigrants, others endeavoured to reshape Britain’s antipodes in the popular imagination more generally. Australian and New Zealand women writers dismantled clichés involving bush-rangers, gold-diggers, as well as escaped convicts and resented returnees. By drawing on a variety of settler novels by female authors, I aim to track how their fictional maps for readers overseas worked and how these maps shifted in the course of the century. In particular, I focus on the motif of the homecoming and how its reworking in nineteenth-century settler fiction reveals shifting attitudes towards emigration and empire, homemaking and homecoming, old and new homes.


Key words

nineteenth-century settler writing; Victorian literature; Australia in nineteenth-century fiction; New Zealand in nineteenth-century fiction; literary maps; returnees in nineteenth-century fiction; Tichborne Claimant.

Date of Acceptance: 23 December 2019

Date of Publication: 31 December 2019

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Wagner, Tamara S. 2019. “The Antipodes of Victorian Fiction: Mapping ‘Down Under.’” Victorian Popular Fictions, 1.2: 45-60. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online)  DOI:

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