Eco-Colonial Australian Literature: Environment, Species, Climate

Exploring the ways in which colonial Australian literature gave expression to species classification and the management of habitat, extinction, climate change, and the impact of environmental disasters.

John Skinner Prout, 'The Kangaroo Hunt', in Sarah Bowdich Lee, Adventures in Australia; or, the Wanderings of Captain Spencer in the Bush and the Wilds (London: Grant and Griffith, 1851)
John Skinner Prout, “The Kangaroo Hunt”, in Sarah Bowdich Lee. ‘Adventures in Australia; or, the Wanderings of Captain Spencer in the Bush and the Wilds’. London: Grant and Griffith, 1851

This project asks: how does colonial Australian literary writing anticipate, and address, the kind of ecological issues that remain urgent for Australians today? Species classification, the management of habitat, large-scale killings and the possibility of extinction, climate change, deforestation, pollution, and the impact of environmental disasters: these are all important to colonial Australian literature, which often developed in close proximity to the work of naturalists and other ecological scientists, giving narrative and poetic force to human encounters with the natural world. This project considers the contribution colonial Australian literature has made to the development of our contemporary environmental consciousness; in doing so, it will also provide necessary historical depth to the ‘ecological humanities’ in Australia.

Project aims

This project has five key aims:

  1. To consider the ways in which colonial Australian literature gives us a rich and complex ‘prehistory’ to the kind of environmental issues that are significant to Australians today
  2. To track and analyse colonial Australian literature’s relationship with the natural sciences, species classification, land use and the management of habitats
  3. To examine colonial Australian literature’s engagement with actual environmental disasters and their aftermaths
  4. To produce new ways of conceptualising colonial literary genres (like the ‘pastoral’) in environmental terms
  5. To demonstrate the contribution colonial Australian literary studies can make to the rapidly growing framework of the ecological humanities, both in Australia and internationally

Project impact

Project impact includes:

Project details


ARC Discovery Project funding commencement: 2017 (active)

Project team

Professor Ken Gelder, CI
Dr Rachael Weaver, ARC Senior Research Associate (SRA)


Professor Ken Gelder