Settlers of the Marsh: Settler desire and its vicissitudes

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Frederick Philip Grove’s Settlers of the Marsh (1925) is a settler-colonial farm novel. Grove’s novel is an exemplary Canadian instance of a mode of fiction which attended the ‘settler revolution’ – the agricultural colonisation of temperate range lands in North and South America, Eurasia, Australasia and Southern Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth. The defining feature of this iconic form of settler colonialism was the presence of what the Canadian historian Peter A. Russell terms a ‘large scale open land frontier’. The settler farm – whether it was in the South African High Veld, the Western Australian wheatbelt, the prairies of Manitoba or the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand – was the main instrument in a mode of colonisation in which seized indigenous land was made available to mainly European immigrants for agricultural enterprise. In the literary sphere, the particular aura and ideological valency of the pioneer farm find expression in the appearance of novels that dramatise the taking up of land by settlers in these frontier communities. This essay uses Grove’s Settlers of the Marsh to trace how the particular forms of desire mobilised by settler colonialism are modulated in the settler-colonial farm novel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-357
Number of pages17
JournalSettler Colonial Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


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