1st Edition

Geography and the Literary Imagination in Victorian Fictions of Empire The Poetics of Imperial Space

By Jean Fernandez Copyright 2020
    296 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    294 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this pioneering study, Dr. Fernandez explores how the rise of institutional geography in Victorian England impacted imperial fiction’s emergence as a genre characterized by a preoccupation with space and place. This volume argues that the alliance between institutional geography and the British empire which commenced with the founding of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830, shaped the spatial imagination of Victorians, with profound consequences for the novel of empire. Geography and the Literary Imagination in Victorian Fictions of Empire examines Presidential Addresses and reports of the Royal Geographical Society, and demonstrates how geographical studies by explorers, cartographers, ethnologists, medical topographers, administrators, and missionaries published by the RGS, local geographical societies, or the colonial state, acquired relevance for Victorian fiction’s response to the British Empire. Through a series of illuminating readings of literary works by R.L. Stevenson, Olive Schreiner, Flora Annie Steel, Winwood Reade, Joseph Conrad, and Rudyard Kipling, the study demonstrates how nineteenth-century fiction, published between 1870 and 1901, reflected and interrogated geographical discourses of the time. The study makes the case for the significance of physical and human geography for literary studies, and the unique historical and aesthetic insights gained through this approach.


    Desert Islands and the Conundrum of Place in R.L.Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

    Topophilia and the Settler Experience in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm.

    Exploring the Glocal: The Dark Continent and Global Economies in Winwood Reade’s "Hollowayphobia" and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

    Mobile Peoples, Mutinous Subjects, and Urban Geographies in Flora Annie Steel’s On the Face of the Waters.

    The Politics of Region and the Quandaries of Space in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim.

    The Imperial Cure: Eventful Healing, Medical Topographies, and Casteless Utopias in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.



    Jean Fernandez is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She received her Ph.D. in English with a specialization in Victorian Literature, from the University of Iowa, where she was a Seashore Dissertation Fellow. She is the author of Victorian Servants, Class, and the Politics of Literacy (Routledge, 2009). Her essays on Victorian fiction, Gender Studies, and Empire Studies have appeared in leading scholarly journals of nineteenth-century British literature.