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Ecofeminist utopian speculations in Henrietta Dugdale’s A few hours in a far-off age (1883); Catherine Helen Spence’s A week in the future (1888); Mary Anne Moore-Bentley’s A woman of Mars; or, Australia’s enfranchised woman (1901); and Joyce Vincent’s The celestial hand: A sensational story (1903)

posted on 2021-11-22, 04:20 authored by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
More and more, the value of literary science fiction continues to attract serious scholarly attention in offering feminists a speculative probe for investigating the promise and capability of women. Nowhere is the richness of the convergence between speculating on women’s futurity and a concern with the environment more apparent than in a relatively under-explored sub-set of Australian women’s writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. Henrietta Dugdale’s A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age (1883) and Catherine Helen Spence’s A Week in the Future (1888) were published in the late Australian colonial period; the closing decades of the nineteenth-century fin-de-siècle. Mary Anne Moore-Bentley’s A Woman of Mars; Or, Australia's Enfranchised Woman (1901) and Joyce Vincent’s The Celestial Hand: A Sensational Story (1903) were published subsequent to Australia becoming an independent nation—on January 1, 1901, also known as “Federation”—after the British Parliament passed self-governing legislation for Australia’s six colonies under the Commonwealth of Australia. This is significant because between both periods, we see the intersection of changes in national identity, a growing political consciousness, in the form of the women’s suffrage movement, concerns around environmental crisis, and the concept of a utopian lifeworld (and its counterpoint), finding productive literary response in the beginnings of a genre now recognized as science fiction (SF). Indeed, what makes these works particularly unique is the way in which these women writers apply allegory to challenge traditions of colonial SF—with its emphasis on the colonial mastery of the land, colonial conquest and oppression (Blend 2018, 36 & 38), “the acquisition of land, nature and non-human and human Others, and in profiting from them,” and the representation of “patriarchal colonial scientific ‘progress’” (Bedford 2018, 16 & 19)—toward a distinctly ecofeminist similitude. Formative SF of this kind, “placing the ideal society in an extra-empirical world … instantly turns itself into an allegory, into a narrative, that is, that speaks about the utopian ideal not directly, as in utopian fiction, but indirectly, through the meticulous construction of an intermediary fictional world” (Paschalidis 2000, 46).



Vakoch DA

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New York, NY

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  • No

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  • Yes

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Dystopias and utopias on Earth and beyond: Feminist ecocriticism of science fiction