English 3693: Settler Colony Literature

Course Description

In this course, we will study poetry, fiction, and film from Australia and New Zealand, paying close attention to how various works fit in the social, political, and cultural discourses of their respective countries. Keeping the colonial histories of these two countries in mind, we will look at creative works as political gestures, as imaginative vehicles by which settlers and indigenous peoples negotiate the overwhelming cultural stigmas that resulted from two very different manifestations of imperialism. As part of this project, we will pay particular attention to imaginative interactions between works produced by descendants of settlers and indigenous peoples from these countries.

All classes will be structured around close readings, discussions, and presentations. Several classes will involve group work. Participation in class discussions and presentations is mandatory and has been assigned a modest mark. Because of the collaborative nature of this class, attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three classes without a doctor's note will see their participation grades drop severely.

Students with disabilities that affect learning:

If you are a student with a documented disability who anticipates needing accommodations in this course, please inform me after you meet with Jill Davies (jill.davies@acadiau.ca   or 585-1127)  or Kathy O’Rourke (disability.access@acadiau.ca or 585-1823) in Disability Access Services,  located in the Student Resource Centre, which is on the  lower floor of the Old SUB.

The Writing Centre

The Writing Centre offers free help to all students wishing to improve their writing skills.  You can sign up online today:

To book a one-on-one appointment with a writing tutor, click here:


To see which helpful presentations and workshops you might want to attend this year, click here:


Text List

  • Peter Carey, True Hitory of the Kelly Gang
  • Kate Grenville, The Secret River
  • Patricia Grace, Potiki
  • Keri Hulme, The Bone People
  • Tim Winton, Breath
  • Poetry Handouts

Mark Distribution

 Option 1

  • Essay 1: 25%
  • Essay 2: 35%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Final Exam: 30%

Option 2

  • Term Paper: 50%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Final Exam: 40%

Weekly Outline 

Jan. 7: Introduction

Jan. 9: Key terms in postcolonial studies

Jan. 14: Australia, an historical overview; Robert Hughes' Beyond the Fatal Shore

Jan. 16: Banjo Paterson's "Clancy of the Overflow," "The Man from Snowy River," and "Waltzing Matilda"

Jan. 21: Grenville's The Secret River

Jan. 23: Grenville's The Secret River

Jan. 28: Grenville's The Secret River

Jan. 30: Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang

Feb. 4: Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang

Feb. 6: Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang

Feb. 11: Charles Harpur's "The Creek of the Four Graves"; Judith Wright's "Nigger's Leap, New England"; Jack Davis's "Camped in the Bush"; Oodgeroo's "We are going"

Feb. 13: Winton's Breath

Feb. 18: Reading Week, no class

Feb. 20: Reading Week, no class

Feb. 25: No class

Feb. 27: Winton's BreathFirst due date: Essay 1

Mar. 4: Winton's Breath

Mar. 6: New Zealand, an historical overview; Allen Curnow's "The Unhistoric Story"; Tuwhare's "To a Maori Figure Cast in Bronze Outside the Chief Post Office, Auckland"

Mar. 11: The Piano--Screening

Mar. 13:  The Piano--Screening and Discussion; Second due date: Essay 1

Mar. 18: Hulme's The Bone People

Mar. 20: Hulme's The Bone People

Mar. 25: Hulme's The Bone People

Mar. 27: Hulme's The Bone People

April 1: Grace's Potiki

April 3: Grace's Potiki; First due date, Essay 2 and Term Paper

April 8: Review

Final Exam: TBA; Second due date, Essay 2 and Term Paper

Assignment Policies

You will have the option of writing one long (10-12 page, 4000-5000 words) or two short (5-6 page, 2000-2500 words) papers for this class.  By the second week of class, you will have to decide on which marking option you prefer.  While I expect you to do research on all papers, my expectations for research on the long/term paper are much higher. Be very wary of using internet resources as research sites, unless they are online scholarly journals.  I will consider allowing you to devise your own topic, but you must consult me and receive approval before proceeding.

I like to give students the opportunity to submit essays without penalty during a two week period.  Therefore I give two due dates for each essay.  I will put comments on papers submitted by the first due date.  Papers submitted after the first due date will be returned with grades, but without comments. I will, however, be available for interviews to talk about the papers. Papers will not be accepted after the final due date unless accompanied by a doctor's letter.   There will be no rewriting or reweighting of assignments.

Students are required to read the following pages from the Acadia University Calendar regarding academic integrity and the discipline.

Students are required to read pages from the Acadia University Calendar regarding academic integrity and the discipline.

I also highly recommend that you check out the following the following:

I have zero tolerance for plagiarism.  Plagiarized essays will receive a zero grade and the registrar will be notified of the incident.

Essay Topics

Write two argumentative essays of 2000-2500 words or one long term paper of 4000-5000 words.  If you elect to write two essays, one must be on a Australian topic, the other on a New Zealand topic. If you choose to write the term paper, you can choose from any of the topics below. Be sure to follow strict MLA format in your papers. 

  1. As Anthony Hassell points out, in the Australian psyche and literary history, the landscape has figured simultaneously as prison and paradise. Discuss this tension between prison and paradise in the Australian landscape in relation to Grenville's The Secret River.
  2. In True History of the Kelly Gang, Ned is preoccupied by writing and the importance of telling his story through the written word. Discuss the statement Carey is making about the importance of writing to the settler colonists' experiences.
  3. It should be clear to any reader that Winton is critical of Australian codes of masculity in Breath.  Yet the text also romanticizes masculine prowess, at least on some levels.  Discuss whether Winton's interrogation of Australian masculinity in Breath in breath is truly effective.  
  4. Compare two poems that represent Aboriginality, one by a non-Aboriginal writer and another by an Aboriginal writer.  Do the writers reveal their subject positions (ie. their positions in the scheme of settler-indigenous power relations) in their poems?  If so, how?  If not, how do they avoid it?
  5. Some readers have reacted negatively to the ending of The Bone People, suggesting that it is facile and politically ineffective, offering no real possibility for reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand because the reconciliation it represents is effected magically. Take a stand on this issue.
  6. Discuss the role of language in Potiki. Does Grace make a positive political statement about her own culture when she uses so much unglossed Maori in her novel, or does she undermine any statement she might be making by excluding readers who do not understand Maori?
  7. Compare Patricia Grace's Toko to Keri Hulme's Simon.  Both characters are incarnations of the Maori god, Maui.  Decide which author makes the most effective use of the Maui story.
  8. Come up with your own topic.  NB: All independent topics must be pre-approved by me.

Essay 1, First due date: 27 February 2013

Essay 1, Second due date: 13 March 2013

Essay 2 and Term Paper, First Due Date: 3 April 2013

Essay 2 and Term Paper, Second Due Date: At the final exam

© John Eustace 2013