Strange in the Cold Blue Light: Sensation and Science in the Australian Journal

Abstract

The first weekly instalment of the Australian Journal, published on 2 September 1865, declared its intention to ‘reflect the Literature, Art, and Science of Australia’. Issued from Melbourne, its inaugural editorial declared that the journal would engage the ‘ablest Colonial pens of the day’, in an ambitious venture that sought to ‘please everybody’. The promise was to ‘record the phases of Colonial literature; to direct attention to the triumphs of art; and to explain the most recent efforts of mechanical genius’ (‘To Our Readers’). Guided by this statement’s fusion of different modes of representation and knowledge, its engagement with technological advancement, and its emphasis on place, my purpose here is to explore how a specifically Australian version of sensation was crafted in the serial fiction and scientific non-fiction published in the early years of the Australian Journal. This essay identifies the Australian Journal as a key player in the multiple and multi-directional migrations of text, images and ideas in the Victorian era. The movement of English literature into other Anglophone places in the nineteenth century created a community of connected, if remote, readers who participated in a global network of print as producers, consumers, and agents of circulation. This migration was of literary form, genre, convention, and technique as much as it was of the printed object. Although the material published was often of colonial origin, the Australian Journal, modelled as it was on the London Journal, engaged in the transportation of British literary platforms, genre, and styles, especially sensation, from the centre of Empire to the colonies.

The first weekly instalment of the Australian Journal, published on 2 September 1865, declared its intention to ‘reflect the Literature, Art, and Science of Australia’. Issued from Melbourne, its inaugural editorial declared that the journal would engage the ‘ablest Colonial pens of the day’, in an ambitious venture that sought to ‘please everybody’. The promise was to ‘record the phases of Colonial literature; to direct attention to the triumphs of art; and to explain the most recent efforts of mechanical genius’ (‘To Our Readers’). Guided by this statement’s fusion of different modes of representation and knowledge, its engagement with technological advancement, and its emphasis on place, my purpose here is to explore how a specifically Australian version of sensation was crafted in the serial fiction and scientific non-fiction published in the early years of the Australian Journal. The ‘cold blue light’ of my title, illuminating the fictional and…

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Published 31 October 2015 in Volume 30 No. 3. Subjects: Science, technology, engineering, Sensation Fiction, Mary Fortune, Victorian Literature.

Cite as: Mirmohamadi, Kylie. ‘Strange in the Cold Blue Light: Sensation and Science in the Australian Journal.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 2015. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.f961a11aae.