Scottish presence in the Australian fiction of Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) with specific reference to ‘Mr Hogarth’s Will’ (1865) and ‘Gathered In’ (1881-82)

Deeley, Norman (2021) Scottish presence in the Australian fiction of Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) with specific reference to ‘Mr Hogarth’s Will’ (1865) and ‘Gathered In’ (1881-82). MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) is acknowledged in Australia as an important feminist author, journalist, Unitarian preacher and advocate of political and social reform. Spence’s fiction is increasingly being read as a radical alternative to the traditional male-oriented Australian literary canon. The claim of this dissertation, however, is that Melrose-born Spence’s fiction should be revaluated from a Scottish perspective, based on the premise that her novels are significantly imbued with a pronounced Scottish presence. The dissertation aims to make a contribution to existing critical commentary about Spence through a re-reading of her texts from this standpoint because previous studies of Spence’s fiction have not presented a Scottish-nuanced critique in relation to her artistic intentions. The methodology includes a close analysis of a representative selection of Spence’s novels, reference to relevant literary criticism and recognition of the importance of the British colonial environment in which she lived and worked. It also considers the significance of a range of Spence’s non-fiction writing. Spence’s absence as a female writer from the Scottish literary landscape is explored, as are the changes which have occurred with respect to her reputation in the Australian literary canon. In examining Spence’s texts, the challenges relating both to the ascription of national identity and to contextualisation for nineteenth-century Scottish writers are addressed. To support the aim of the dissertation, the Scottish framework of Spence’s fiction is interrogated; in particular her use of Scottish settings, characters, language and cultural reference points. The centrality of Scottish tropes to the realisation of Spence’s artistic intentions is highlighted in a detailed examination of Mr Hogarth’s Will (1865) and Gathered In (1881-82). Spence’s focus on the topics of marriage and religion is foregrounded and her reliance on Scots law and Scottish Presbyterianism to achieve her literary goals is emphasised. The dissertation concludes that there is a valid case for re-assessing Spence’s fiction from a Scottish viewpoint. Its findings are that Spence should not be read solely as a proto-feminist Australian writer but should be recalibrated as a Scottish-accented author who argued for gender equality within a British imperial context. Finally, the implications for contemporary readings of Spence and also for future studies of her works are opened out for consideration.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Catherine Helen Spence, Scottish colonial writers, nineteenth-century Scottish female writers, Scottish-Australian writers.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Carruthers, Professor Gerard and Macdonald, Dr. Catriona M.M.
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Alastair Arthur
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82192
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 May 2021 14:39
Last Modified: 19 May 2021 09:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82192

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