peter denney on the soundscapes of settler colonialism


Peter Denney, ‘Picturesque Farming: The Sound of ‘Happy Britannia’ in Colonial Australia’, Cultural Studies Review 18, 3 (2012).

This essay examines the way in which the British landscape tradition influenced perceptions of sound, noise and silence in colonial Australia, focusing on representations of rural soundscape in art and literature. It argues that poets and artists attempted to recreate an image of Australia as a new ‘Happy Britannia’, a noisy society engaged in virtuous agricultural labour. But this image was opposed to the prevailing taste for picturesque landscape, which accorded little value to human activity and placed great emphasis on silent, rural scenery. Accordingly, colonial perceptions of soundscape were ambivalent, as human-produced noise was heard as both a sign of the progress of civilisation and an obstacle to the spread of cultural refinement.

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