“Nothing but land”: Women’s Narratives, Gardens, and the Settler-Colonial Imaginary in the US West and Australian Outback
Abstract

Abstract:

This essay applies ecocriticism, informed by a transnational, settler-colonial theory, to a comparative analysis of texts by three US and three Australian women authors. Through an examination of both “wild” and domestic landscapes, the essay works to establish how these authors manifest the “settler-colonial imaginary” through their glorification of the process of establishing English-style gardens on homesteads founded in territory depicted as an “unland.” The essay reads the insistent use of a “nothing but” construction in descriptions of uncultivated land in both the Australian and US texts as signifying the literary imagining of the “unland” of the colonized territory, a discursive clearing of the land, as it were, to make room for settlement. From there, it proceeds to compare and contrast the different ways in which these texts imagined settlers’ occupation of land as an ecological struggle to wrest an arid or semi-arid landscape into a space amenable for the production of an English garden—the symbol of the settler-colonial project’s ultimate success. It then discusses texts by settler women in both Australia and the United States that imagine settlement in a more ecologically sustainable way, signaling a potential “counter-colonial” gesture of reconciliation with place.