Distinguished Lecture Series: “Colonial Cosmopolitanism: Albert Smith’s and Rudyard Kipling’s Travels to Victorian Hong Kong” by Professor Julia Kuehn – Department Of English


8 Apr 2015





This talk is about the concept of a ‘colonial cosmopolitanism’; a contradiction in terms but a combination that was commonly invoked in the Victorian era. Over the past decade, the concept of ‘cosmopolitanism’ has been appropriated for studies of the Victorian novel on the one hand, and analyses of Grand Tour and modern(ist) city travelogues on the other. It has, however, not been applied to the context of nineteenth-century, colonial travel writing. This essay traces the origins and central points of the cosmopolitanism debate, as well as its usefulness for the context of travel writing, before looking at two Victorian travelogues about colonial Hong Kong: Albert Smith’s (1858) and Rudyard Kipling’s (1889). These two travelogues were written thirty years apart and the main argument in this essay is that, within these years, the notion of cosmopolitanism changed from a more ‘ethical’ (Kantian) to a more ‘economic’ (Marxist) version, reflecting the Victorian paradigm shift towards nationalism and Empire.


Dr. Julia Kuehn has postgraduate degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Bonn and London, and also completed the Habilitation at the University of Bamberg. Her research interests lie in Victorian literature and culture, with especial focus on popular, women’s and travel writing. She has published in international journals including Victorian Literature and Culture, Victorian Review, Studies in Travel Writing, The Journal of Popular Culture, and Frontiers: A Journal of Women Writing. Julia’s current projects include a study of representations of Hong Kong in Victorian travel writing and a comparative study of nineteenth-century German and British realist prose.

She is a Director of the Asian Literary Prize, which is an annual literary award given to the best novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English.

She is on the Editorial Board of Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing, 1790-1914, and on the Advisory Board of Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, an International Journal of Travel Writing.


All are Welcome


Department of English
Tel: (+853) 8822 8201
Email: fah.english@um.edu.mo