Leeds Beckett University
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Rethinking fiction of empire and the british press: reception and testimony in britain, 1897-1917

posted on 2024-06-17, 13:23 authored by Deanna Walsh
Rethinking Fiction of Empire and the British Press: Reception and Testimony in Britain, 1897-1917 critically examines Victorian and Edwardian Britain’s reception of fiction of empire. It identifies a gap in scholarship that surveys the relation between the British press, literature, and imperialism, which has paid little attention to the contribution that literary reviews gave to public discourse. The thesis argues that literary reviews were an important element of the culture of empire, alongside reporters, foreign correspondents and authors. The findings illustrate how fiction of empire was expected to relay reliable information, and was deployed as fictional testimony in the service of public debate. Through archival research of British newspapers, journals, and periodicals between 1897 and 1917, this thesis thematically analyses reviews of literature to uncover what attributes contemporary readers chose to discuss about fiction of empire. It is an interdisciplinary study that combines historical research with literary analysis. It comprises three qualitative case studies: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899; 1902), Olive Schreiner’s Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897), and A. E. W. Mason’s The Four Feathers (1902). The cases were chosen to demonstrate three places of conflict where the British press was mobilised to influence the public on imperial matters: Congo Free State, South Africa, and Sudan. This thesis is the first of its kind to bring together and analyse comprehensively these texts and their reviews. The British public came in to contact with empire through narratives circulated by the press and popular literature. By examining reviews of literature, an intermediary position between journalism and literature, this thesis traces the rhetoric and representations that informed Victorian and Edwardian cultures. The way imperialism was conveyed to the British public on a day-to-day basis is revealed—and, the narratives that informed Britain’s perception of empire are laid bare.


Qualification name

  • MRes


Burroughs, Robert ; Herbert, Caroline

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Masters


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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