Funded by the European Research Council and based at University College Dublin, SouthHem is a six-year research project (2016-2022) designed to rethink the nature and scope of nineteenth-century literary culture by giving the southern hemisphere settler colonies a more central role in defining the period.
The project involves a detailed comparative analysis of the literary outputs and mediating institutions of British settlers, diasporas, and Indigenous and mixed-race peoples in three transnational zones: “Zone 1” (Oceania): Australia and New Zealand; “Zone 2” (Southern Africa): the Cape Colony and Natal; and “Zone 3” (South-East Asia): Singapore, Penang, and Malacca. The literatures considered in this context include writing in English, translations into English, transliterations and transcriptions, and writing in languages of origin.
The project has three interrelated aims: first, to consider how literary modernity (and its institutions, associations, and print cultures) emerged and developed outside of Europe and the northern hemisphere; second, to think about how cultural capital and literary value accrued in the context of nineteenth-century settler colonialism; and third, to rethink the relationship between settler and Indigenous literary cultures in ways that credit the long histories of aesthetic production among colonized peoples.
By radically expanding the type, provenance, and sample size of texts typically considered in nineteenth-century studies, the project aims to produce a geographic, temporal, and conceptual realignment of the field. As such, it is hoped that the project will facilitate larger cross-imperial and synthetic studies of the Indigenous, diasporic, and settler literatures of the period.
Work Package 1: Books and Readers (2016-2021) is a book history and history of reading project, which traces the changing nature of colonial book holdings and reading habits through an analysis of library, auction, book-seller, and private catalogues See, e.g., Lara Atkin, Sarah Comyn, Porscha Fermanis, and Nathan Garvey, Early Public Libraries and Colonial Citizenship in the British Southern Hemisphere (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
Work Package 2: Settler Literary Culture (2016-2019) considers comparative case studies of white settler literary culture, looking at 1. literary institutions and associations; 2. literary productions and print cultures; and 3. the role of mediators. See, e.g., Sarah Comyn and Porscha Fermanis (eds), Worlding the South: Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture and the Southern British Colonies (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021); and ‘Rethinking Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture: British Worlds, Southern Latitudes, and Hemispheric Methods‘, Journal of Commonwealth Literature (2021) (open access here).
Work Package 3: Translations (2019-2022) examines Indigenous and mixed-race writing mediated through English, either at the point of production or through translation or transcription. See, e.g., Megan Kuster, ‘Global Commodity Chains and Local Use-Value: William Colenso, Natural History Collecting and Indigenous Labour’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 22.2 (2021), doi:10.1353/cch.2021.0021.
Work Package 4: Encounters (2019-2022) focuses on literary encounters between Indigenous and white settler populations, including proximate encounters, distant or virtual encounters, and symbolic or imaginative encounters. See, e.g., Porscha Fermanis, Southern Settler Fiction and the Transcolonial Imaginary (forthcoming).
European Research Council Starter Grant (2016-2022)
She is the author of John Keats and the Ideas of the Enlightenment (Edinburgh, 2009); Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770-1845 (ed. with John Regan, Oxford, 2014); Romanticism: A Literary and Cultural History (with Carmen Casaliggi, Routledge 2016); Early Public Libraries and Colonial Citizenship in the British Southern Hemisphere (with Lara Atkin et al, Palgrave, 2019); Worlding the South: Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture and the Southern British Colonies (ed. with Sarah Comyn, Manchester, 2021); and Romantic Pasts: History, Fiction, and Feeling in Britain and Ireland, 1790-1850 (Edinburgh, 2022).
Prof. Fermanis is the Principal Investigator of a European Research Council-funded project on literary modernity in the southern hemisphere (‘SouthHem’). She is currently working on the representation of southern spatial imaginaries in settler novels from nineteenth-century Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa: ‘Southern Settler Fiction and the Transnational Imaginary, 1820-1880’.