Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture

Second Department


Reader 1

Aaron Matz

Reader 2

Emily Cuming

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Rights Information

© 2012 Tessa Katherine Jacobs


In his groundbreaking work of postcolonial theory, Orientalism, Edward Said puts forth the idea that imperial Europe asserted an identity by constructing the character of its colonized subjects. Said writes that his book tries to “show that European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self” (3). The object of this thesis is a related project, for it too is a search for imperial Britain’s surrogate or underground self. Yet rather than positioning this search within the British colonies, this thesis takes as its context a land and people that were at once more intimate and more alien: the races and landscapes of Fairyland.

This Thesis attempts to situate the fairy folklore and literature from the Victorian era within the context of greater social and political ideologies of the age, specifically those pertaining to national identity, imperial power and race. In doing so it will analyze Charles Kingsley’s Water-Babies, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Kenneth Grahame’s The Golden Age, George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden concluding that the British self proposed by these works was an uncomfortable manifestation, and haunted by the anxieties and discontinuities that arose as imperial Britain attempted to navigate an identity within Victorian conceptions of race and power.