Staff & Editorial Board




Fall 2020
Starting with Volume 32, the NCS staff and the NCSA board are excited for our publication to join the Journals Division of Pennsylvania State University Press.
Spring 2020
Spring 2020: Despite stay-at-home restrictions due to COVID-19, NCS staff continues working through the final stages of producing volume 31. Once printed, however, the issue must await safe conditions for the staff to prepare the mailing. We thank contributors and readers for your patience.
NCS will be joining the Journal Division of Pennsylvania State University Press, beginning with Volume 32.
Fall 2019
Volume 30, Special Issue "Assembly," available.

The cover of NCS Volume 30

Spring 2019
Volume 29 available.

The cover of NCS Volume 29

April 2018

Call for Submissions: Special Issue of NCS on "Patchwork, Cut-and-Paste, Reassembly"

This special issue will focus on ideas of reuse and recombination. How were bits and scraps of materials, textual and otherwise, reassembled into new forms in the nineteenth century? To what ends? Essays might consider these issues in relation to images, fabrics, texts, and more. Possible topics could include scrapbooks, patchwork, quotation, citation, illustration, and any and all forms of recombination. Approaches from all disciplines, including literature, art history, history, music, and the history of science and the social sciences, are welcome, as are submissions that cross national boundaries and/or range across the nineteenth century. One particularly exciting feature of Nineteenth-Century Studies is thatthe journal encourages authors to enhance their contributions with pertinent artwork.

Please submit manuscripts of 8,000-12,000 words, following NCS's submission guidelines to guest editor Casie LeGette at legette@uga.edu. Early expressions of interest and proposals of topics are also welcome. The deadline for submissions of full manuscripts is August 1, 2018, but review will begin May 1, 2018 and earlier submissions are encouraged.

December 2017

Now Available: 19th Century Studies, Vol. 27.

The cover of NCS Volume 27

February 2017

Now Available: 19th Century Studies, Vol. 26.

The cover of NCS Volume 26

March 7, 2013
NCS introduces new online reviews feature. See online reviews.
March 1, 2011
NCSA introduces new Nineteenth Century Studies journal Web site.
March 15, 2010
Now Available: 19th Century Studies, Vol. 22.



Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century. Edited by Matthew Ingleby and Matthew P. M. Kerr. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018. Pp. xii + 276. $110.00.

     Editors of collected conference papers have the daunting task of uniting many critical voices and forging strong enough connections between the texts that their collection may cohere. In 2014, “Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century” was a two-day conference of the North American Victorian Studies Association, held at Oxford (UK). A few years later, this rich volume of interdisciplinary essays was published in the series Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture. Editors Matthew Ingleby and Matthew P. M. Kerr have written an introduction that integrates current literature on the nineteenth-century coastal imaginary with a narrative that joins the thirteen chapters to follow.

     Ingleby and Kerr’s introduction surveys studies of Victorian and European coastlines in literary and visual texts. Alain Corbin’s foundational study Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750–1840 looms large on this list for its analysis of a late eighteenth-century shift – from wasteland to the sublime – in literary and visual perceptions of seacoasts.1 As they mention (p. 4), Tricia Cusack’s collection, Art and Identity at the Water’s Edge has also explored the symbolic resonance of coastlines in visual art.2 Enabled by train travel and the democratization of vacation time, seashore tourism during the long nineteenth century became widespread, and “the British cultural imagination turned to coasts” that “began to function as zones of cultural and commercial interchange” and as “common ground for manifold, often contrasting styles of thought and practice” (p. 1).

     Unnamed in the introduction are two important texts published in 1990 that broke ground in theorizing the commodification of rural spectacle for nineteenth-century tourists. The British seaside resort is a case study of modern tourist desire at the heart of sociologist John Urry’s book The Tourist Gaze.3 Likewise, art historian Nicholas Green’s The Spectacle of Nature positioned “the urban experience of nature” (p. 93) centrally in both modern French tourism and landscape representation.4 Urry’s and Green’s Foucauldian arguments have been a baseline for many later scholars in the humanities working with representations of tourism as a hallmark of modernity.

     Coastal Cultures joins a more recent turn to the sea in work by such prominent writers as ecofeminist and literary critic Stacy Alaimo and ecocritic and Shakespeare scholar Steve Mentz, which is informed by new materialisms and the environmental or “blue” humanities.5 As in the updated third edition of Urry’s Tourist Gaze (2011), blue humanities scholars have moved beyond the optical focus of Urry’s first edition and have worked to incorporate participatory and embodied experience into their studies of tourism.6 Green’s Spectacle of Nature focused on the construction of nature for a purely urban gaze; ecocritics, historians, folklore scholars, and postcolonial scholars have more recently endeavored to recover the ecologies, rural voices, and representations of those who dwelt on the coasts and experienced modern tourism differently from seasonal visitors.

     Although most of the authors in Coastal Cultures focus on the Victorian coasts of the “archipelagic kingdom with Great Britain at its helm” (p. 2) forged by the Acts of Union of 1707, some of the shores considered are as far afield as France, Newfoundland, and Zanzibar. The editors note that their volume differs from recent studies of coastlines as it “attends to the heterogeneity of coastal experiences by tracing an extended but nuanced historical arc, and by adopting a range of disciplinary perspectives … drawn from literary criticism, but also art history, museum studies and geography” (p. 5). The first half of the volume, “In the Shadows of War,” is conceived by the editors as a group of essays that examines “the ways in which the coast acted as a kind of conduit for defensive, reactionary violence, representing also an imaginative bulwark against the manifold forms of breakdown (moral, stylistic, geographical) threatened by modernity” (pp. 16–17). They chart “[r]ising and falling anxiety about incursion [which] led to a recurrent apprehension that Britain’s coastline might be pierced or permeated” (p. 3); as both an edge and a jumping-off point, the coastline’s indeterminacy was an ever-breached boundary.

     Across the long “Victorian” period, what authors, artists, and visitors found in the seacoast was “a metaphor, and an occasion, for liminality” (p. 3) that could be experienced variously through debauchery, decadence, frivolous consumption, sublime immersion in nature, or as a state of exile. They found multiple metaphors and benefits in the seaside. For painter John Constable (1776–1837), it offered many levels of visual symbolism, national meanings, and health benefits for the visitor (Christiana Payne, p. 51). Other essays in this section include a mapping of historical and contemporary geographies of drinking and temperance movements in coastal resorts, and attendant class conflict (James Kneale), colonialist collecting of Swahili art in East Africa (Sarah Longair), Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1850–94) fiction and bloody historical memories on far northern Scottish shores (David Sergeant), a poststructuralist reading of sublime responses in Alfred Tennyson’s (1809–92) sea cave poetry (Roger Ebbatson), a British politician’s role in making Cannes a tourist town (Rosemary Ashton), and post-revolutionary provincial exile and Frances Burney’s (1752–1840) coastal imagination of Brighton prior to its identity as a spa town (Leya Landau).

     The second section, “Marginal Progress,” is thematized by the “progressive possibilities the coast offered writers, visual artists and working-class holidaymakers, among others” (p. 17). As a site of modern experience it was fraught with ambivalence about new technologies such as telegraphy and the undersea cable that ran between the colonial Celtic coasts of Ireland to Newfoundland (Brian H. Murray), the technologies and veristic limitations of nineteenth-century landscape photography (Matthew P. M. Kerr), and the mass marketing of tintype photos to meet tourists’ desire for seaside collecting of souvenirs (Karen Shepherdson). Marine science examined both the bizarre undersea world (Margaret Cohen) and the vogue spurred by Philip Henry Gosse’s (1810–88) A Year at the Shore (1865) for collecting aquarium specimens that emptied life from the tidal pools; this view of the shore was utterly in contrast to Matthew Arnold’s (1822–88) bleak strand in his poetry (Valentine Cunningham). Other poets were inspired to decadent poetry on the margins of land (Nick Freeman).

     Most nineteenth-century scholars will find this collection of interest, as its approaches to seacoasts engage with diverse methodologies and yet it offers no one-size-fits-all theoretical approach – which is mostly a good thing. The majority of the essays foreground literary portrayals of the coast, yet the handful that discuss geography and visual culture are strong and well-integrated. Never far from view in all of these essays is the horizon of our current coastal concerns such as rising seas, the commodification of coastal land, Brexit and border crossings, and the struggle to decolonize the museum. Many of these interconnections are brought home in Philip Hoare’s epilogue that weaves together coasts past and present.


1.Alain Corbin, Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750–1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
2.Tricia Cusack (ed.), Art and Identity at the Water’s Edge (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).
3.John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. (London: Sage Publications, 1990).
4.Nicholas Green, The Spectacle of Nature: Landscape and bourgeois culture in nineteenth-century France, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990).
5.Steve Mentz, At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean. (London: Continuum, 2009); Stacy Alaimo, “States of Suspension: Trans-corporeality at Sea” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 19.3 (Summer 2012) 476– Stacy Alaimo, Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2016).
6.John Urry and Jonas Larsen, The Tourist Gaze 3.0 (London: Sage Publications, 2011).

Maura Coughlin
Bryant University

Imperial Boredom: Monotony and the British Empire. By Jeffrey A. Auerbach. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp xiii + 289. 50 black-and-white illustrations. $50.00 (cloth).

     In Imperial Boredom: Monotony and the British Empire, Jeffrey A. Auerbach argues that the experiences of boredom, monotony, and tedium were characteristic of nineteenth-century British Empire. Focusing primarily on India, South Africa, and Australia, Auerbach analyzes the written records of sailors, traders, immigrants, settlers, administrators, and soldiers and offers a compelling revision to the dominant historical narrative of empire as a project built on adventure and excitement. Imperial Boredom also contributes to the historical study of emotions and affects. Auerbach characterizes boredom as a modern construct that emerges in the mid-eighteenth century, in relation to Enlightenment concepts of individual rights and happiness and the “heightened expectations for variety and diversion” engendered by capitalist industrial expansion (p. 5). The boredom of empire – of traveling across ocean and land, of disappointing views, and of menial labor – is thus a case study in boredom as an exemplary experience and established discourse in western modernity. Ultimately, Imperial Boredom advances a vision of British Empire in which ordinary men and women performed tedious jobs while struggling “to make sense of – that is, to find meaning in – the empire in which they were participating” (p. 189), revealing “a widespread disenchantment that lay just beneath the surface of the nineteenth-century British imperium” (p. 144).

     The book is organized into five thematic chapters that survey the experiences of travel, administration, defense, and settlement of empire through the lens of boredom. Chapter 1, “Voyages,” shows how the normalization and standardization of imperial travel in the first half of the nineteenth century transformed it from an adventure to a “cheerless interlude” (p. 13). Seventeenth-century ocean voyages were fraught with danger and uncertainty, with high incidence of shipwreck and kidnapping, and eighteenth-century journeys produced thrilling discoveries. However, by the late eighteenth century, travelers began to describe trips across the ocean as tedious. The rise of commercial travel during this period, the increased literacy of travelers on board ships, and the fashion for writing diaries during such voyages led to such frequent expressions of boredom that “writers began to complain about how monotonous expressions of monotony had become” (p. 24). Chapter 2, “Landscapes,” focuses on sight-seeing in India and Australia. Auerbach argues that the aesthetic of the picturesque in imperial landscape painting was designed to advertise the scenic beauty of empire but also led to disappointed travelers. Worn down by the hardships of travel, travelers were struck by the misalignment between representation and reality. “[E]ven as it made India interesting,” Auerbach writes of the picturesque, it “could also make it boring wherever travelers could not find scenery that fit its aesthetic requirements” (p. 53).

     The following three chapters take up genres of imperial work. Chapter 3, “Governors,” profiles the work of imperial officials during the bureaucratization of empire. Colonial governors, such as William Denison (1804–71) in Madras in the 1860s and Lord Lytton (1831–91), the Governor-General of India in the 1870s, complained of “mundane” and “trivial” work, exhausting public receptions, and social isolation. In Chapter 4, “Soldiers,” Auerbach turns to British troops stationed in India and South Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century. Soldiers during this period were primarily tasked with the administrative duties required to sustain a vast imperial network. Military conflicts were rare and involved more marching and drilling than gunfire, with wide swaths of unscheduled time. Auerbach argues that soldiers, many of whom enlisted to escape difficulties at home and associated the army with a romantic vision of masculinity based in heroism, valor, and adventure, were left “deeply disillusioned with Britain’s imperial project” (p. 140). Chapter 5, “Settlers,” explores the experiences of settlers and long-term residents in India, Malay, Upper Canada, and Australia. Segregation, the language barrier, and anxieties of racial contamination meant that women who resided in the empire with their husbands or brothers lived in social isolation. Meanwhile, settlers in Australia experienced “disappointment and despair” at the infelicitous conditions for living and working that had been misrepresented by settler-colonial propaganda (p. 158). Finally, the conclusion considers the implications of imperial boredom for the analysis of western modernity and nineteenth-century attitudes towards British Empire more broadly.

     Imperial Boredom is meticulously researched and sheds light on everyday lives on colonial outposts through its analysis of the diaries, journals, and letters of imperial officials, soldiers, settlers, and others. These complaints, found in primary sources, of tedium, monotony, drudgery, and dullness offer new insights into how empire bored the people tasked with upholding it. The book would have benefited, however, from more substantive engagement with theoretical approaches to the study of emotion and affect. For example, by drawing on affect theory and psychoanalysis, the author might have developed a more robust definition of boredom. Nevertheless, the book offers fascinating insights into the ideological, technological, and social conditions that produced boredom as the dominant experience of empire. Boredom could be the result of “unmet expectations” set by cultural discourse or media such as landscape painting, travel guides, war fiction, and adventure magazines (p. 103); of new technologies that reduced the risks and dangers of sailing to and fighting in empire; of the bureaucratic rationalization of imperial administration; or of racist and white supremacist views that caused settlers and long-term residents to withdraw from interactions with indigenous people. Overall, Imperial Boredom is deeply researched, unflagging in its commitment to making the uninteresting interesting, and especially illuminating in its conclusions that nineteenth-century empire was governed by disenchantment. It will be of particular interest for scholars interested in the history of British Empire, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century imperialist and settler experiences, and accounts of disenchantment within modern imperialism.

Amanda Shubert
University of Chicago

The New Prometheans: Faith, Science, and the Supernatural Mind in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. By Courtenay Raia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019. Pp. ix + 424. 4 black-and-white figures. $105.00 (cloth), $35.00 (paper).

     The conflict between science and religion, reason and belief, proof and superstition, has haunted much of modern thought, resulting in perennial crises of faith and culture wars that threaten how we understand who we are and why we exist. These questions and debates persist in contemporary society, perhaps arising now more than ever as the world grapples with a global pandemic that has pitted medical professionals and public health experts against anti-vaccination advocates and science skeptics. Consequently, Courtenay Raia’s The New Prometheans is a timely study, positioning the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) at the center of these seeming oppositions between reason and belief during the final decades of the Victorian era. Founded in 1882 and comprised of luminaries in the scientific, literary, and cultural establishments in Britain, and allied with sister societies in Europe and the United States, the SPR attempted to dissolve the boundaries between professional and amateur science, popular and elite institutional knowledge, and materialist and metaphysical theories of consciousness. Although many historians and literary scholars have turned their attention to the pseudo-scientific, occult, and supernatural beliefs that gained popularity during the latter half of the nineteenth century, Raia depicts the SPR’s investigations of telepathy, automatic writing, séances, and hypnosis not as departures from Victorian science’s march toward rational and materialist progress, but rather as intellectual endeavors that were integral to the advancement of disciplinary science. For Raia, psychical researchers were not driven by a “nostalgic religious yearning” for ancient superstitions and outdated beliefs; rather, they desired “a bold new take on the future of secularization, an alternative route to the twentieth century yet to be reckoned by science” (p. 1). Thus, the SPR can be read in a radically modern light as “the first generation of psychical researchers, intellectuals working at the leading edge of experimental psychology in the late nineteenth century to test the limits of human consciousness” (p. ix).

     In order to trace not only the influence of institutional science on psychical research but also the potential that such paranormal investigations had to “explode the very capacity of science to know, crossing the powers of empiricism and epiphany,” Raia follows the intellectual and professional development of four of the SPR’s most famous presidents, all of whom were well established in traditional scientific disciplines (p. xi, emphasis in original). Dedicating chapters to Sir William Crookes (1832–1919) (chemistry), Frederic Myers (1843–1901) (psychology), Sir Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) (physics), and Andrew Lang (1844–1912) (anthropology), Raia’s work attempts to answer the thorny question of how educated and upper-class men who were decorated members of the Royal Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science could also participate in studies of supernatural phenomena. Raia approaches this question with an agnosticism that she argues her subjects themselves adopted; like the investigators she profiles, she takes seriously the intellectual questions of the time, treating psychical research as a “genuine scientific effort” working toward the objective goal of “confirm[ing] or exclud[ing] the existence of a psychical faculty” (p. x). Raia desires to move away from questions of why her subjects believed what they did and whether they were deceived or actively deceiving, choosing instead to focus on the beliefs themselves in order “to restore these neglected intellectual frameworks that legitimated psychical research for its practitioners, and thereby to recover the full scope of the Victorian scientific imagination as it ranged across this psychical terrain” (p. 9).

     Raia claims that too much scholarly focus has been paid to notable members of the SPR rather than what the organization sought to prove and/or discover. She positions her work as a needed intervention in this traditional approach, claiming that “[t]his book returns to what was truly compelling about this endeavor: the experimental tour de force of the first few decades of its activity, marked by an astonishing theoretical depth and integrity of effort. Whatever hopes were held privately by its membership, the society itself aimed first and foremost to be an experimental research program, studiously replicating the norms of disciplinary culture in its publications, practices, and institutional structure” (p. 2). According to Raia, the SPR was notable for its insistence on the subordination of faith to skepticism. What is of interest to this study is not the ambiguous and often dubious nature of the object of study, but rather the orthodox scientific methods that were employed in the investigations. Nonetheless, by organizing her study around the intellectual development of Crookes, Myers, Lodge, and Lang, Raia seems to fall into the very trap that she seeks to avoid. Although Raia provides thorough and thickly historical chronicles of each man’s intellectual development in an attempt to show the reader how such scientifically-minded individuals could hold and pursue seemingly antithetical convictions, her account of the SPR at times misses the forest for the trees, delving so deeply into the lives of her subjects that the reader loses sight of the larger questions guiding the study. This tendency is especially clear in chapter 6, which follows the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary career of Andrew Lang from literary critic and defender of the imperial romance, to iconoclastic anthropologist and theorist of “psycho-folklore,” and finally to psychical researcher and president of the SPR in 1911, one year before his death (p. 287). While fascinating and meticulously researched in its own right, this chapter appears focused more on the intellectual and spiritual growth of a notable figure than on the SPR and late Victorian psychical research more generally. To some extent, this tendency is noticeable in the book as a whole.

     Raia also takes great pains to distinguish the project of psychical research from the phenomenon of spiritualism and the séance circle, a desire the early psychical researchers shared as they attempted to separate themselves from the infamy of Sir William Crookes’s association with medium Florence Cook (1856–1904) and her spiritual manifestation Katie King. As a popular phenomenon, relying on and privileging evidence from the layperson rather than the scientific elite, spiritualism was at once a democratic and empowering enterprise, often revolving around the spiritual “talents” of female mediums who hailed from lower socioeconomic circles than the men who investigated them (p. 130). At the same time that the SPR sought to bridge the gap between the scientific elite and the faithful, creating a more inclusive sphere of inquiry, it in some ways became entrenched in the very elitism it was trying to combat.

     Raia explains the distinction between the SPR and other movements such as spiritualism, mesmerism, and theosophy by arguing that “[w]hile such movements may have entwined with scientific themes and actors in fascinating ways, only psychical research constructively aspired to be a fully academic discipline. If we shift our focus from the character of the phenomena to the character of the individuals and the praxis of their research, the difference between midcentury ‘scientific spiritualism’ and the SPR’s codifying and consensus-building ‘Committee of Apparitions, Haunted Houses, etc.’ is readily discerned” (p. 9). By suggesting that the “character” and professional status of the investigators renders their project more authentic or legitimate, Raia in some ways reinforces the very divisions that the SPR allegedly sought to dismantle. Such a claim leaves unexamined the gender, class, and often ethnic differences and power differentials that existed between the investigators and their objects of study. While Raia clearly articulates the “elite cultural space” (p. 10) that the SPR occupied, she glosses over the complex power dynamics that existed between the man of science and the female medium, only briefly mentioning issues of gender in psychical research when discussing Florence Cook’s questionable relationship with Sir William Crookes (chap. 2), the Sidgwick Group’s investigations of the celebrated mediums Annie Fairlamb Mellon (1850–1938) and Catherine Fox Jencken (1837–92) in 1875 (chap. 3), and Eusapia Palladino’s (1854–1918) awe-inspiring contortions during the 1894 séances conducted on the Île Ribaud (chap. 5). These passing anecdotes about well-bred scientists “focus[ing] their energy on restraining the suspect, the foreign and lowborn” female medium leave the reader eager for a more robust engagement with the gendered implications of the SPR’s research program (p. 214).

     Despite these minor issues, Raia’s ambitious and richly detailed study will likely become required reading for scholars of the history of science, especially those interested in the development of abnormal psychology and theories of consciousness. Literary and religious scholars will also find within its pages a fascinating take on the alleged Victorian crisis of faith at the turn of the century.

Rebecca Soares
Arizona State University

Nineteenth-Century Settler Emigration in British Literature and Art. By Fariha Shaikh. Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018. Pp. x + 244. 10 color illustrations. $103.93 (cloth), $17.88 (paper).

     With this publication, Fariha Shaikh makes a deft and welcome contribution to the flourishing field of settler studies. Her monograph expands the category of emigration literature to illuminate new ways in which verbal and visual art registered the departure of six million subjects from the British Isles between 1800 and 1869. How to represent distance, home, and mobility across global networks of exchange? Shaikh investigates a range of responses to this aesthetic challenge by gathering multifarious works created “directly out of the practices of emigration” between 1830 and 1870: manuscripts, shipboard periodicals, genre paintings, numerous letters, as well as more canonical miscellanies and novels (p. 5). Taking this capacious approach, her work builds upon the work of James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, and John Plotz, to name a few, and enhances how we understand the experience and representation of the emotional and physical distances settler emigrants traveled.1

     As Shaikh contends, this demographic shift was textually constituted from the outset. Proponents of emigration harnessed the energy of print culture to encourage nation-building through systematic colonization, and its fuel was pragmatic, optimistic booster literature delivering a consistent message: after a period of privation and hard labor, success in the colony would be inevitable; local attachments would be fruitfully cultivated to reproduce older forms of community, even as ties to the homeland would be strengthened. Following a useful introduction that reviews these mechanisms of cultural production, Shaikh divides her book into two sections. Taken together, the first three chapters argue that the mobility of emigration texts catalyzed formal innovation. To begin, she introduces a sizable group of emigrants’ letters aggregated into anthologies (many published by promoters of emigration), which were arranged by networks of personal association. The circuits traced by these volumes certainly exceed the binary of writer and recipient, for they occupy what Clare Brant has called a third zone of epistolary form, neither private nor public.2 Moreover, manuscripts were often available to authenticate the published renditions. In other ways, too, this archive’s material reality is seen to amplify its ability to create and represent intricate networks of exchange.

     Manuscripts are also the focus in the second chapter, where Shaikh offers two lively case studies of shipboard periodicals created decades apart on vessels bound for Australia. Building on the scholarship of Jason Rudy, she presents the ship as a liminal space where settler emigrants were “homed and unhomed” simultaneously (p. 87).3The production of a newspaper at sea, complete with illustrations, pseudonymous correspondents, and content modeled on English village life, created a provisional community in which passengers began the affective transformation from emigrant to colonist. Shaikh posits three spaces of “overlapping … imaginaries”: the village, the ship, and the periodical, all ephemeral but essential to the narrative of cultural continuity (p. 85).

     Rather differently, Chapter 3 treats solidly canonical texts – classics, in fact, of Canadian literature: The Backwoods of Canada (1836) by Catharine Parr Traill (1802–99) and Roughing It in the Bush (1852) by her sister, fellow emigrant Susanna Moodie (1803–85). While participating in the discourse of preparation, these texts offer a riposte to booster literature through the interplay of gender and form. Suggesting that the sketch is especially suited to female experience, Shaikh notes Moodie’s “loose diachronic structure” and idiosyncratic subject matter (p. 102). Whereas typical emigration literature appealed to young men searching for personal liberty, Moodie’s sketches sought to capture a woman’s efforts to create a knowable community in an unfamiliar locale. This more anecdotal approach, coupled with Traill’s efforts to develop a new botanical nomenclature, offers a fragmented aesthetic to represent the female experience of nation building.

     Following this expansion of settler literature, Shaikh turns to two examples of cultural instantiation, when the concerns of emigrant texts become visible in other modes. The first is art historical, for she presents five mid-century paintings, all shown in London, in which settler motifs and texts become visible on the canvas: The Last of England (1855) by Ford Madox Brown (1821–93), The Emigrant’s Last Sight of Home (1858) by Richard Redgrave (1804–88), A Letter from the Colonies (1852) by Thomas Webster (1800–86), Answering the Emigrant’s Letter (1850) by James Collinson (1825–81), and Second Class—The Parting (1854) by Abraham Solomon (1825–62). In some cases, the artists offer accompanying explanations and even original poetry. This skillfully chosen set thus offers what Rachel Teukolsky and Gerard Curtis have called inverted ekphrasis , a discontinuous rhythm that here disrupts the optimistic narrative of emigration and establishes a “periphery-periphery connection” (p. 151).4

     Shaikh detects a similar kind of cultural instantiation in the Victorian novel when, in select works by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–65) and Charles Dickens (1812–70), the now familiar motifs of emigration literation announce themselves. Yet perhaps the most provocative passage of Shaikh’s final chapter deals with Catherine Helen Spence (1825–1910), the single figure examined in the book who was raised largely in a colony. In her novel Clara Morison (1854), the effort to recreate a knowable community erupts into a crisis of knowing more generally. A female character can conjure no understanding or vision of Australia from her wide reading, and allusions to Dickens only confuse. Here the legibility that is so essential to emigration literature falters. The epistemological challenge in this brief but important moment suggests, then, that distance distorts. If the expanse of the voyage out cannot be bridged via print culture for an emigrant, what might the implications be for the metropolitan reader?

     In moving from the creative textual encounters of the first three chapters to the appearance of emigration literature in genre paintings and the novel, Shaikh ably demonstrates the pervasive cultural effects of emigration literature as she has recast it. In so doing, she also gestures to several opportunities for sustained inquiry into how distance shaped the aesthetics of mid-century settlement. For all its progress in deconstructing the metropole-colony binary, vestiges of that recalcitrant formation still assert themselves in this valuable study. The inclusion of Spence – and the insufficiency of the emigration texts that her character consumes – will pique interest in further expanding the corpus to include writers who published from the colonies and, indeed, from the “empty spaces” of the metropole’s imaginary (p. 21).


1. James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World , 1783–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); John Plotz, Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).
2. Clare Brant, Eighteenth-Century Letters and British Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).
3. Jason R. Rudy, “Floating Worlds: Émigré Poetry and British Culture,” ELH 81 (2014): 325–50.
4. Rachel Teukolsky, The Literate Eye: Victorian Art Writing and Modernist Aesthetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Gerard Curtis, Visual Words: Art and the Material Book in Victorian England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999).

Cynthia Schoolar Williams
Wentworth Institute of Technology

Unredeemed Land: An Environmental History of Civil War and Emancipation in the Cotton South. By Erin Stewart Mauldin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. x + 244. $35.00 (cloth), $25.00 (paper).

     This concise volume (162 pages of text with extensive endnotes) provides evidence as to why cotton became the king of the Cotton Belt, even though cotton was harmful to the people and the land itself. This history goes beyond explanations about free market forces and race/class conflicts in order to trace the role of agricultural practices and their effects during 1840–80. The U.S. Civil War helped dismantle existing land use traditions leading to ones which were more ecologically, sociologically, and economically damaging. Putting almost all the region’s land into cotton left its producers poorer and more wanting in daily provisions than before the war.

     Using both small-scale sources (individual letters and journals) as well as larger theoretical and scientific texts, Mauldin elucidates Southern antebellum farming conditions in the Cotton Belt. While tobacco, cotton, rice, and sugar were prevalent crops, these antebellum farms had self-sufficient, comprehensive farming traditions. The author provides a lively account of strategies which included a robust variety of edible crops, ample farming areas, and “free-range animal husbandry” (pp. 5–6 88–89). In free-range animal husbandry, cattle and swine were not enclosed by fences. Instead, the tasty crops were enclosed so that the livestock could not consume them. Livestock grazed and foraged in wooded landscapes. Thin, erosion-prone soil was subject to harsh, unpredictable weather conditions (heat and humidity punctuated by gully-washing rains). Solving this problem involved intensive soil management, leaving part of the farm fallow, and the slaves with back-breaking work. Slaves periodically cleared and burned trees in select tracts to provide needed soil amendments in the form of wood ash. These combined practices lessened environmental impact while providing varied edible crops and meats to those on the property; collectively, these practices of maintaining or improving land quality were known by the biblical-sounding phrase of redeeming the land (see pp. 5–6).

     During the U.S. Civil War, hungry soldiers degraded the landscape; they destroyed fences enclosing crops and considered any available food free for the taking. Thousands of troops’ boots trampled productive fields while the soldiers themselves felled trees and repurposed fence posts for barricades, battlements, and cooking fires, thereby contributing to widespread environmental harm in order to meet the immediate needs of the passing hoards. The war’s impact also included scorched-earth policies so that essential food and material resources would not be available to the enemy, another environmental insult.

     After the war was over, high prices for cotton during 1865–66 were enough to entice some farmers to put all their eggs in one basket – some producers even neglecting raising the livestock to provide essential manure for crops. Many impoverished farmers hoped that cotton would bail them out of a sticky financial situation. While the first cotton crops were initially robust, after the first couple of seasons, the quantity diminished, then necessitating large amounts of guano, phosphates, and, of course, labor. Emancipation certainly resulted in eventual improvements on many levels for previously enslaved people; however, it did not make it easy for freed black workers to own land. Freedmen and women largely did not own land in the quantities needed to make the former system viable.

     Emancipation reduced former slaves to sharecropping situations and contract (group) labor which proved difficult – circumstances perhaps little to no better than enslavement. Proactive and location-specific land management practices slipped, resulting in poorer soils for King Cotton. Falling prices for cotton meant that the farmers had made unfortunate choices, incurring debts for fertilizers and labor, as well as for edible grains, vegetables, and meats for the people on the land.

     War and Reconstruction therefore changed time-established farming practices quickly – leading to intensive cotton production. Farmers ended up in a never-ending cycle requiring fertilizer inputs for a temperamental crop as well as cash on hand for basic human food. When the land could no longer be “redeemed” in traditional ways, neither heaven nor earth were of much help.

     The book would be very helpful for those interested in environmental, African-American, and U.S. Civil War/Reconstruction histories. The prose is lively, approachable, and short so that it might be useful both to the scholar and to the college student. The interdisciplinary approach is one that might inspire other writers wishing to combine environmental and social histories.

Emily Godbey
Iowa State University

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