Colonial Contracts: Marriage, Rape, and Consent in Malcolm’s Katie


This paper considers the implications of the final lines of Isabella Valancy Crawford’s 1884 long poem Malcolm’s Katie: A Love story, in which the newlywed settler wife proclaims that she would not exchange the bounty of a settler wife’s life for Eden itself if I knew my mind, arguing that the poem’s feminist urgency lies in its self-conscious depiction of Katie’s absent mindedness (BentleyIntroduction) and Crawford’s suggestive portrayal of the consequences of Katie’s lack of consciousness for the regulation of her body, its affects, and its reproductive potential within colonial society. Drawing from studies of later-nineteenth-century law around marriage, rape and property, this paper investigates the poem’s representation of feminine desire and consent as central to an understanding women as vehicles of both territorial claim and inheritance through which the acquisition of colonial land is justified, naturalized, and perpetuated on behalf of the developing nation.

This article “Colonial Contracts: Marriage, Rape, and Consent in Malcolm’s Katie” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 212 (Spring 2012): 68-84.

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