If settlers must reproduce they must grow adult too: Ken Gelder, Rachael Weaver, ‘The Australian Kangaroo Hunt Novel (1830–1858) as Bildungsroman’, Australian Literary Studies, 34, 1, 2019


Abstract: In Australia – and no doubt in other outposts of empire – hunting provided a rite of passage for ambitious young men to learn about local conditions and establish their colonial credentials. This article argues that the kangaroo hunt narrative therefore operated as a kind of colonial bildungsroman or novel of education. It examines three kangaroo hunt novels written by women who had in fact never travelled to Australia. The first is Sarah Porter’s Alfred Dudley; or, The Australian Settlers (1830). Porter’s novel shows that the kangaroo hunt is incompatible with the bourgeois sensibilities of an aspirant settler who revolts from ‘scenes of blood’. But other colonial bildungsromans invested in the adventure of hunting as a reward in itself. The second published kangaroo hunt novel is Sarah Bowdich Lee’s Adventures in Australia; or, the Wanderings of Captain Spencer in the Bush and the Wilds (1851); the third is Anne Bowman’s The Kangaroo Hunters; or, Adventures in the Bush (1858). Lee’s novel gives free play to the kangaroo hunt, exploring its possibilities for both Aboriginal and settler identities, while Bowman’s novel puts the kangaroo hunt into an ethical discussion of killing on the frontier. These British novelists imagine frontier experiences in colonial Australia by drawing on a range of Australian source material. Their novels present Australia as a testing ground for young male adventurers. The kangaroo hunt is their defining experience, something to survive and in some cases, finally, to disavow as they transition from emigrants to settlers.

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