Research Stream


Jodi McAlister (2017)
The University of Melbourne

How Do We Love In The Land Down Under?: Romantic Love in Australian Popular Fiction in the Long Nineteenth Century

This project uses romance novels written by Australian women in the long nineteenth century as a historical archive in order to shed light on ways in which discourses of romantic love were positioned and expressed in the Australian affective imagination.


How do we love in the land down under? Numerous scholars have considered the specific national and cultural traditions and histories of romantic love in Anglophone territories such as the United States and the United Kingdom; however, the history of romantic love in Australia remains comparatively unstudied.

This project seeks to mitigate that gap by tracing the history of discourses of romance in Australian popular literary history in the long nineteenth century. Its aim is to understand the history of romantic love in Australia as arising from but also reacting and disparate to British traditions, so as to further elucidate an emotional tradition of romantic love which is uniquely Australian.

This project has taken popular romantic fiction as its central archive for three reasons:

  1. Popular texts are – as the name makes clear – more widely consumed than other literary categories, and so allow for a broader analysis of class than might be otherwise allowed.
  2. Secondly, popular romantic novels are often texts written and primarily consumed by women. Women are typically the social loci of discourses of sentiment and romance, and so are the ideal subjects for study when it comes to the study of romantic of love.
  3. Romantic fiction by Australian women in the long nineteenth century is relatively unstudied. Therefore, this project allows for an important reconsideration and further historical contextualisation of the genre which puts Australian emotional history at the forefront.


McAlister, J. ‘The Literary Text as Historical Artifact: The Colonial Couple in Australian Romantic Fiction by Women, 1838–1860’. Lilith: A Feminist History Journal forthcoming.

McAlister, J. ‘“Feelings Like the Women in Books”: Declarations of Love in Australian Romance Novels, 1859–1891’. Emotions: History, Culture, Society 2.1 (2018): 91–112.

McAlister, J. ‘Love and the Mother/Land: Romantic Love in Nineteenth-Century Australian Popular Novels’. Conference paper presented at the Australian Historical Association conference, The University of Newcastle, 3‒7 July 2017; and the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand conference, Massey University, Wellington, 10‒11 July 2017.

Image: Mrs Anna Maria Bunn c.1829. Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales [a5021004 / MIN 443] (Mitchell Library).