Date of Submission



This research investigates the writing of British-dominion missionaries working in China during the period 1860 to 1920 – a period of great intensity for mission activity, and prolonged turbulence and humiliation for the Chinese Empire. The Protestant missionary enterprise was referred to as a “writing machine” for its production of literature in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, relying upon regular accounts from missionaries for publication, designed to inform, inspire and perpetuate mission funding. In the wake of Edward Said’s foundational work Orientalism (1978), scholars have sought to investigate the relationship between the textual activity of missionaries, and the formation of thought and attitude in shaping imperial ideology. This project however differs. Departing from a specific focus on empire, here attention is drawn to narratives of self-construction. A central concern has been how missionary texts construct the author as an agent within the missionary process. On the one hand, missionary work is the supreme self-effacement, a call to sacrifice the self in the service of others. The missionary enterprise on the other hand, was contingent upon missionaries’ life writing for success. The self-effacement of the missionary subsumed within the sacrificial act runs counter to the self-promoting concepts of the mission enterprise. This study investigates dissonant elements that result from such a paradox and examines ways in which missionary writing constructs the authorial persona as it responds to the challenges of missionary work. While this project sits within mission and life writing studies, it draws upon historical and literary analysis to investigate the complex ways in which vocationally-called individuals negotiate narratives of self under alienating circumstances.


School of Arts

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


283 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts