Kulturelle Beziehungen: German-Australian literary links in Catherine Martin's An Australian girl and Henry Handel Richardson's Maurice Guest

Enid Sedgwick

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis demonstrates the close links between Australian literature and German thought and culture in Catherine Martin's An Australian Girl (1890) and Henry Handel Richardson's Maurice Guest (1908), and thereby provides a fuller understanding of the sophisticated literary and intellectual purposes of these two works. In examining the German elements in each novel, and the contexts from which much of that material is drawn, this study seeks to supplement the scholarly explanations provided in the two Academy Editions of these works. While Maurice Guest has received serious scholarly attention, An Australian Girl has been accorded relatively little. Despite generally favourable reviews on publication, both appear to have been undervalued over time. The study begins with a brief historical survey of German migration to Australia and the contribution German migrants made to the intellectual life and culture of the evolving nation. The examination of Catherine Martin's work includes: biographical details, particularly concerning her contact with German culture; an analysis of the form of the novel and a comparison of An Australian Girl with Goethe's Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister with regard to form, theme and characterisation; an analysis of German philosophical elements in the novel; and Martin's presentation of social conditions in Germany in 1888-90, and their role in the novel as a whole. The examination of Henry Handel Richardson's work encompasses: biographical details; the genesis of Maurice Guest; differences between the reception of the novel in England and Germany; the genre to which the novel belongs and parallels with Künstlerromane; an analysis of Richardson's description of the physical, historical and intellectual milieu of Leipzig, and its role in the novel; and finally her integration of German social customs and the German language into the text. Use has been made of five primary sources which have not been used before in any detail with regard to these aspects of either author: additional material from the Mount Gambier Border Watch; The Hatbox Letters, the family history of the Martin and Clarke families; the German translation of Maurice Guest; German reviews of Maurice Guest; and the correspondence between Richardson and her French translator Paul Solanges. The key argument of this thesis is that the German influence on both form and content, in the case of An Australian Girl, and on style and content, in the case of Maurice Guest, is deep and various, and that these German elements have proved to be an impediment to a full understanding and appreciation of these novels for many Anglo-Saxon readers and reviewers. In the two novels Martin and Richardson provide pointers to Australia's earlier interaction with the wider world and display a level of sophistication which makes these works worthy of greater recognition than they currently enjoy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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