Vesalianum, Grosser Hörsaal
Neo-Victorianism and Memories of Empire: Settler (Trans-)Migration between Romance and Contestation
This lecture gives insight into a current research project on a group of nineteenth-century British colonial settler migrants who embarked not only on one, but (rather unusually) on several long-distance relocations – a process of multiple migration which today’s social scientists often call ‘transmigration’. The project as a whole looks at the ways in which transmigrants, their descendants and outside onlookers have made sense of these specific migration experiences through literature and other cultural forms. The central case study revolves around a community of radical Calvinists who, after their preacher Norman MacLeod, often called themselves ‘Normanists’ and migrated from Scotland via two successive Canadian locations to Australia and, eventually, New Zealand. After these group migrations (the last of which comprised c.1000 people), individuals also moved on (or, at times, back) to other locations, and links have been maintained between the community’s different local ‘branches’ for over 150 years. After a general introduction to this complex case of (post)colonial migration history and its textual afterlives, the lecture will focus on the Normanists’ portrayal in modern fiction and drama from the 1970s onwards. This will also be situated in the wider context of what has been called ‘neo-Victorianism’, i.e. the prolific reiteration and re-use of Victorian themes, figures, genres and styles in later culture, to come to terms with the ways in which Victorian legacies continue to influence the present, but also to reassess the Victorian period through the lens of modern perspectives and values. As often happens in neo-Victorianism, post-Normanist neo-Victorian texts veer between romanticisation, an espousal of conservative values and the ‘pleasurable consumption’ of a suitably packaged Victorian past on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a more critical perspective that aims to expose the ‘darker’ side of Victorian life, for instance in terms of gender- or ‘race’-based hierarchies. The latter also ties into more general developments in recent postcolonial memory discourse.
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