Beyond "the point of decorum": the political novels of Rosa Praed

Susan Laverick

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Rosa Praed (1851-1935) achieved international literary fame as an Australian expatriate author in the imperial metropolis, but was later elided from a nationalist canon focused on what Sheridan has termed the ''exclusively masculine Australian legend' (''Ada Cambridge and the Female Literary Tradition' 163). When feminist scholarship restored the romance genre to the literary criticism of Australian writing, Praed''s literary reputation, together with her narratives exploring gender and cross-cultural conflicts, was reappraised. Significant as this reclamation was, however, it overlooked the political novels embedded in the romance genre. This created a blind spot in Australian literary criticism that the dissertation seeks to correct.Beyond "the point of decorum": The Political Novels of Rosa Praed offers a new contribution to literary understanding of Rosa Praed by situating her as a writer of political fiction and demonstrating her literary engagement with the political cultures of Brisbane and Westminster. Recruiting her experiences as the daughter of a Queensland cabinet minister and later, in London, as the literary colleague of an Irish Nationalist parliamentarian, Praed published a series of fine political novels that have, to date, been overlooked by Australian literary criticism. Five of these narratives are recovered by the dissertation: Policy and Passion (1881), The Right Honourable (1886), Miss Jacobsen''s Chance (1887), The Rebel Rose (1888), and Nùlma (1897).Praed''s attention to political detail is impressive, whether scrupulously researching Hansard reports from the House of Legislature in Brisbane or personally studying ''the activities of the House of Commons, from every standpoint available to an outsider' (Our Book of Memories 3). ''Outsider' was synonymous with ''woman' so the narratives privilege the women who functioned in this political culture as sexual accessories, political hostesses or covert power-brokers. ''Beyond ''the point of decorum': the political novels of Rosa Praed' pays tribute to Praed''s acknowledgement of the sexual and political role played by women in metropolitan and colonial Victorian political culture.The dissertation is premised on: i) an analysis of the genre of political fiction, including the elements of nineteenth-century Australian feminine romance and Victorian political fiction from which these narratives derive; and ii) a comparative textual analysis that explores Praed's interrogation of orthodox Victorian sexual ideology. The dissertation contends that Praed's writing of Victorian sexual politics is her most powerful contribution to the genre of political fiction and it offers a new dimension to the literary profile of Australia's first internationally famous author. It also demonstrates the need for modern scholarly editions of Praed's work.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Wallace, Joy, Principal Supervisor
    • Segal, Alexander, Co-Supervisor
    Award date05 Nov 2015
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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