The Second World and Settler History: Settler Collectives, Land Fulfillment, and Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Coonardoo


  • Nicholas Birns New York University


Australian literature, socialist realism, settler colonialism, Second World, Katharine Susannah Prichard


In the Cold War-era “three worlds” model, the Second World was the socialist world, particularly the Soviet Bloc, that stood opposed to the capitalist West but—unlike the postcolonial Third World—was largely white. However, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, postcolonial critics briefly redeployed the term Second World to denote peripheral settler colonies like Australia. This essay examines the juxtaposition of these two uses of the term “Second World” through a discussion of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s 1929 novel Coonardoo and the history of its misrepresentation of Australian Indigenous people. Though Prichard sought to be sympathetic to the Indigenous woman at the center of the novel’s plot, Coonardoo, the teleological perspective of her authorial attitude towards the land precludes this sympathy. This essay examines how Prichard’s teleological view is connected to socialist-realist attitudes and settler collectives; how Prichard’s novel both continues and inflects settler ideology now in the neoliberal era; and how teleological settler histories of the land can no longer presume the continued solidity of the land in the wake of the Anthropocene.

Author Biography

Nicholas Birns, New York University

Nicholas Birns teaches at New York University. He is author most recently of The Hyperlocal in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Literary Space (Lexington). Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not yet Dead (Sydney University Press, 2015, and Theory After Theory: An Intellectual History of Literary Theory (Broadview, 2010). He co-edited the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel (Cambridge UP, 2023) and A Companion to Anthony Trollope (McFarland, 2021). From 2001 to 2018, he edited the journal Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/NZ Literature. He has published in journals such as MLQArizona QuarterlyPartial Answers, and Angelaki.





Decolonial Ecocriticism Cluster