Colonial Modernity, Native Species and E.J. Brady’s ‘The Friar-Bird’s Sermon: An Australian Fable’


  • Ken Gelder university of melbourne


nartive species, colonialism, colonial fiction


Jussi Parikka has talked about the mobilisation of animals and insects into 'technological modernity', as a particular way of making them visible. I want to look at the way native species in Australia were mobilised in the framework of colonial modernity. Species classification and species extinction happened almost simultaneously: someone like John Gould is important here, for example. Species visibility thus brings two competing but intertwined realities into play. I want to look at a colonial animal fable, E.J. Brady's 'The Friar Bird's Sermon' (1897), which works by gathering native species together, making them visible (even allowing them to 'speak'), and classifying them: but all within the cultural logics of colonial modernity. This story is a subgenre of the animal fable that owes something to Chaucer's The Parliament of Fowles — attributing human/citizen characteristics to (in this case) native species, and so inserting them into the colonial project. Written partly in reaction to Adam Lindsay Gordon's dismissive view of local species, the story recovers a native ecology but only by suppressing the realities of extinction and burying the effects of colonialism itself. Brady went on to publish a paean to Australian settlement and land development, Unlimited Australia (1918).

Author Biography

Ken Gelder, university of melbourne

professor, school of culture and communication