thesis plan

Building Bridges

Displacement and the British Literary Diaspora

In 1908, at the age of twenty-three, Roy Bridges quit Hobart, the scene of his seemingly idyllic childhood, for Sydney, where he found work as a journalist and began to write novels. He was soon joined there by his twenty-eight year-old sister, Hilda, who became his housekeeper, amanuensis and, before long, a novelist in her own right. The pair remained on the mainland (mostly in Melbourne) for the next twenty-five years, ‘wandering,’ as Roy would later write, ‘from flat to house in quest of the quiet that was not’ (That Yesterday 235).

Roy and Hilda returned to Tasmania in 1935, taking possession of Woods, the family farm at Sorell, which had fallen into disrepair and been left to their care. Although their roaming was now at an end – Roy would remain at Woods until his death in 1952, and Hilda would stay there even longer – the pair continued to be oppressed by the ‘sadness and the loneliness of life’ (Bridges, That Yesterday 242), their lifelong devotion to each other matched only by their love of literature. Neither one married and between them they would go on to publish forty-nine novels, an impressive body of work that is now largely forgotten.

Roy and Hilda Bridges appear to have been, or at least to have felt, displaced. They struggled to find a home for themselves, reluctantly settling on the isolated and empty family farm; they felt at odds with their times, too, with the clamour of the city and the growing ugliness of the countryside. They were apparently unable, as well, to find a place in society, to conform to the gender conventions of their day. Moreover, as authors they failed to find a niche in the cultural tradition in which they lived and worked, falling into literary obscurity not long after Roy’s death.

My project is a study of the lives and literature of Roy and Hilda Bridges. It draws upon an uncurated and virtually untouched collection of documents (letters, manuscripts, articles) donated by Hilda to the Tasmanian Archives. My overall aim is test a three-part thesis, one informed by my interest in displacement (in the state of being and/or feeling displaced) and by the impressions I have so far gleaned from my research: (1) that the Bridges felt displaced; (2) that this feeling was rooted in their relationship to their home state, Tasmania, and its peculiar history and geography; and (3) that literature, in the form of reading and writing, exacerbated and yet perhaps ultimately eased their sense of displacement.

Methods and methodology

I plan to use postcolonial criticism as the methodology for my study, because this theoretical approach not only seems to suit my subject matter, but because I have a deep and abiding interest in Australia’s (post)colonial relationship with Britain (it being, I believe, the key to me unlocking my past and the past of my country). More specifically, and as someone who identifies as neither one thing nor the other and who feels neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’, I am drawn to Homi K. Bhabha’s formulation of postcolonial criticism, particularly his notion that identity is formed in the ‘interstices’ of culture rather than at its boundaries; that it is created in the in-between spaces where ‘domains of difference’ overlap and are displaced (Bhabha 1-2). I hope, therefore, to explore the idea that (post)colonial outposts like Tasmania act as ‘interstices’ rather than as spaces that give rise to and reinforce ‘parochial polarities’ (Bhabha 4).


My study will take three forms: an exegesis, a thesis and a public program. Although my ideas are in the early stages of development, I envisage that my exegesis will detail and discuss the theoretical underpinnings of my thesis, along with its genesis, purpose and production. The exegesis might take the form of a conventional literary essay – a work, that is, of literary criticism – or it might become something a little less orthodox: a series of fictional letters, say, addressed to my subjects and written with the ostensible aim of assuaging their (imagined) concerns about my project.

Similarly, the plans for my thesis itself – a short piece of creative writing – are still in their infancy. Broadly speaking, though, I see my thesis being a work of historical fiction, ideally a chapter from a projected novel or, failing that, a long short story. Given the nature of my project and the fact that I am studying two closely related subjects (Roy and Hilda), I would like my thesis to be a kind of dialogue; an exchange between male and female, past and present, ‘here’ and ‘there’; a discourse that seeks to reconcile dualities (as per Bhabha), of and for both reader and writer.

As a recipient of a Humanities in Place Industry Engagement Scholarship, I am required to produce an ‘agreed industry output’ as part of my project, one that will benefit, and be developed in conjunction with, my partner organisation (the Tasmanian Archives). Having consulted with my supervisor and my mentor at the Archives, I envisage that my public program might take the form of a published paper, a lunchtime talk and a small exhibition. I am still in the early stages of the project, though, so I will continue to be guided by my research and by the ongoing feedback of my advisors.


I am a part-time student; having commenced my Honours project at the start of 2021, I must finish it by the end of 2022. I plan to complete my coursework in the first year, my exegesis (in draft form, at least) in a second-semester course-work unit and, all going well, the first of my industry outputs (the text for a small exhibition) by the end of the 2021 (one year in advance of a potential opening in late 2022, to coincide with the completion of my thesis).

From mid-2021 I hope to start studying the Bridges collection proper, with the aim of familiarising myself with its entirety by the start of the first semester in 2022, when I will start drafting my thesis and a scholarly paper, one of my other industry outputs. I plan to complete drafts of both texts by mid-2022, and fully edited iterations of them by the end of the academic year. I aim to write and present my lunchtime talk at the State Library prior to the opening of the proposed exhibition, towards the end of 2022.


Semester 2, 2021


Exegesis (draft)

Exhibition (text)

Summer Break

Collection study

Semester 1, 2022

Thesis (draft)

Paper (draft)

Semester 2, 2022

Thesis (final draft)

Paper (final draft)

Exegesis (final draft)




Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Taylor & Francis, 2004.

Bridge, Carl, and Kent Fedorowich. ‘Mapping the British World.’ The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity. edited by Carl Bridge and Kent Fedorowich, Frank Cass, 2003, pp. 1-15.

Bridges, Hilda. Letter to William Crowther. Undated. CRO101/1/7. W. E. L. H. Crowther Collection. Tasmanian Archives.

–––. Men Must Live. Wright & Brown, 1938.

–––. Wood’s Farm. C9505. W. E. L. H. Crowther Collection. Tasmanian Archives.

Bridges, Roy. The Fires of Hate. Hodder and Stoughton, 1915.

–––. That Yesterday Was Home. Australasian Publishing Company, 1948.

–––. The League of the Lord. Australasian Publishing Company, 1950.

Conrad, Peter. Down Home: Revisiting Tasmania. Chatto & Windus, 1988.

Meaney, Neville. ‘Britishness and Australia: Some Reflections.’ The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity. edited by Carl Bridge and Kent Fedorowich, Frank Cass, 2003, pp. 121-35.

Meyer, Therese-Marie. ‘Prison without Walls: The Tasmanian Bush in Australian Convict Novels.’ Antipodes, vol. 27, 2013, pp. 143-48.

–––. ‘Exoticising Colonial History: British Authors’ Australian Convict Novels.’ Exoticizing the Past in Contemporary Neo-Historical Fiction. edited by E. Rousselot, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. pp. 37-54.

Pierce, Peter. ‘Roy Bridges’s Fictions of Van Diemen’s Land.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 19, 2000, pp. 425-432.

Rose, Kate. ‘Socioliterature: Stories as Medicine.’ Displaced: Literature of Indigeneity, Migration, and Trauma. edited by Kate Rose, Taylor & Francis, 2020, pp. 1-4.

Upcher, Janet. Changing Countries, Bridging Worlds: The Poetry and Prose of Margaret Scott. Ginninderra Press, 2014.