Arcady in Flames: Representations of Bushfires in Nineteenth-Century Settler Culture

This project examines nineteenth-century literary representations of Australian bushfires in European settler culture to consider how the bushfire mutated from a deadly threat into a source of heroic challenge when it was fictionalised. 

Arcady in Flames: Representations of Bushfires in Nineteenth-Century Settler Culture

'Camp Fire Yarns' State Library of Victoria

Comparing literary responses to catastrophes like ‘Black Thursday’ (1851)
with survivor stories, Grace Moore addresses the role of the fire in settler folklore, considering how imaginary bushfires created narratives of survival and heroism in the face of tragedy, while exploring the terror evoked by the fire. Considering the threat that the bushfire posed to the home, Moore attends to the gender politics of fire fighting and the representation of women as defenders of the domestic, addressing the fire’s role in constructing Australian womanhood. Her work considers how fiction mediates emotional responses to fire, particularly terror and trauma, and she looks at the role that literature can play in recovery and reconstruction. Moore argues that the mythologisation of the bushfire played a major role in shaping and consolidating the settler identity, while its real-life equivalent threatened to efface it.

To date, Grace has written about the emotion surrounding arson; melodrama and the representation of the fire; fire and Christmas stories (with particular focus on the hearth; campfires; and HG Wells's conflation of bushfires and invasion politics in the 1930s.

Grace blogs about her  work at Her research is becoming increasingly concerned with the environmental humanities, although she is also a Dickens scholar who occasionally combines her work on the Victorians with her interest in the history of emotions.

Grace Moore is particularly committed to working with the broader community. In December 2013 she convened the ‘Fire Stories’ conference at The University of Melbourne, which brought together academics, artists, dancers, writers, activists, fire-fighters and bushfire survivors.