Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (511.28 kB)

The Landscape of Empire: the Place of Landscape in 19th Century Colonial Novels

Download (511.28 kB)
Version 3 2023-03-14, 23:28
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:56
Version 1 2021-11-11, 23:48
posted on 2023-03-14, 23:28 authored by Gordon, Rebecca Leah

This thesis presents a comparative research study of four novels published within two years of 1881 in four colonies of the Victorian Empire. The novels are Waitaruna: A Story of New Zealand Life by Alexander Bathgate from New Zealand, Gathered In by Catherine Spence from Australia, Neville Trueman: The Pioneer Preacher, a Tale of the War of 1812 by W. H. Withrow from Canada, and finally The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner from South Africa. These novels were chosen because of their close publication dates. My purpose is to compare the depictions of landscape in each novel.  The purpose of this study is to discover the depiction of landscape in the novels and the effect of the landscape on the characters. Because the authors were writing as English subjects in a non-English setting, they each had to engage differently with the landscape in their novel, depicting the settler experience of colonising the new country. Each novel’s portrayal of landscape is analysed using the text and placed into the historical context of the colony and the literary development of the colony.  The findings of all four novels are compared to identify the differences and similarities discovered in the initial analysis. These final chapters show that landscape was closely tied with the settlers’ conceptions of religion, the treatment of the indigenous people, and settler experience in the particular colonies as represented by these authors. The importance of this thesis and the comparative study at the end is that my study gives an in depth analysis of four novels from four different colonies that have previously not been compared. The selection of the novels based solely on date of publication makes the comparison all the more interesting because these novels were not chosen due to their content, so the similarities and differences of the novels point out the similarities and differences of the authors’ literary portrayals of the colonies in a comparison study that has not yet been done.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Stafford, Jane