Department of English

Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

Modern History_hsumingteo imageAssociate Professor

PhD (1998) Department of History, University of Sydney
BA Honours (1994), Class I & University Medal, University of Sydney

Office: W6A 403
Phone: +61 2 9850 7018
Fax: +61 2 9850 6064


Hsu-Ming Teo is a cultural historian and novelist who works in the area of twentieth-century European history, British imperial culture, Orientalism, travel and tourism, and popular literature. She is the author of Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels (2012) and co-editor of Cultural History in Australia (2003). She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Australian Studies, the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, and area chair of history for the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ). In 1999 she won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for her first novelLove and Vertigo, which was also short-listed for the inaugural Tasmania Pacific Region Literary Prize and the Dobbie Award for women's fiction. It has been translated into German, Italian, Chinese and Thai. Her second novel, Behind the Moon, was published in 2005 and short-listed for one of the 2006 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. She was a member of the NSW Premier's Literature and History committee in 2004 and was one of the judges of the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. She has been on the advisory council of the Man Asian Literary Prize since 2007 and judged the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize.

She has supervised research projects on: literary history; travel and tourism; nineteenth and twentieth-century European history; multiculturalism in Britain and Australia; gender history; British imperial history.




Current Research Projects

'The popular culture of romantic love in twentieth-century Australia'.
In western culture 'love' is commonly cited as the reason for cohabitation or marriage, yet 46% of marriages are likely to end in divorce in Australia today. This project examines how the culture of romantic love has changed in Australia over the course of the twentieth century as changing patterns of work and gender relations, consumerism, and the supplanting of spiritual ideals by sexuality and the cult of the body modified representations of love in literature, film, and periodicals. The popular discourse of romantic love has transformed expectations of love, placing different demands upon what it is supposed to achieve. This project will result in an edited book and a special journal issue on the popular culture of romantic love in Australia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Available to supervise in topics in the following areas: history and fiction; history of travel and tourism; British imperial culture and postcolonialism; history of popular culture, especially popular literature.

Research Funding and fellowships

  • Macquarie University New Staff Research Grant ($15,056), 'Representations of Arabs in women's popular culture', September 2006 to September 2007.
  • Australia Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship ($208,000), 'The popular culture of romantic love in twentieth century Australia', 2002-2005.
  • Macquarie University Research Fellowship ($92,000), 'A comparative history of women's romance writing in the UK, USA and Australia', 2000-2002
  • Macquarie University Research Grant for 'Colonialism, race and the romance novel', ($9,000) 2001.
  • Australia Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship for 'A comparative history of women's romance writing in the UK, USA and Australia', January 2000 - not accepted.


Selected Publications


Book cover Desert Passions

Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels (Austin: University of Texas Press, November 2012).

Book description

The Sheik-E. M. Hull's best-selling novel that became a wildly popular film starring Rudolph Valentino-kindled "sheik fever" across the Western world in the 1920s. A craze for all things romantically "Oriental" swept through fashion, film, and literature, spawning imitations and parodies without number. While that fervor has largely subsided, tales of passion between Western women and Arab men continue to enthrall readers of today's mass-market romance novels. In this groundbreaking cultural history, Hsu-Ming Teo traces the literary lineage of these desert romances and historical bodice rippers from the twelfth to the twenty-first century and explores the fascinating gendered cultural and political purposes that they have served at various historical moments.

Drawing on "high" literature, erotica, and popular romance fiction and films, Teo examines the changing meanings of Orientalist tropes such as crusades and conversion, abduction by Barbary pirates, sexual slavery, the fear of renegades, the Oriental despot and his harem, the figure of the powerful Western concubine, and fantasies of escape from the harem. She analyzes the impact of imperialism, decolonization, sexual liberation, feminism, and American involvement in the Middle East on women's Orientalist fiction. Teo suggests that the rise of female-authored romance novels dramatically transformed the nature of Orientalism because it feminized the discourse; made white women central as producers, consumers, and imagined actors; and revised, reversed, or collapsed the binaries inherent in traditional analyses of Orientalism.


Edited Books

modernhistory_staff_hsumingteo_book1Cultural History in Australia, ed. Hsu-Ming Teo and Richard White, (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2003)

Book Description

More fashionable than political, social or economic history, cultural history has become the predominant kind of history produced in Australia today. This book celebrates the diversity of cultural history but also asks hard questions about its popularity and assesses the ways in which it is practiced. Leading Australian historians reflect on the theoretical assumptions from which cultural history draws, and its strategies and methodologies. As well as considering cultural history as an approach to history, they consider it as a source of subjects for historical examination.
Designed for students, this unique book unites historiography, theory, international trends, and new case studies on diverse subjects.




modernhistory_staff_hsumingteo_book2Behind the Moon (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2005; New York: Soho Press 2007).





modernhistory_staff_hsumingteo_book3Love and Vertigo (Sydney: Allen & Unwin 2000).






Co-editor, History Australia special issue, 'History in Popular Culture', vol. 8, no. 1 (2011)Book cover Frank Clunes' Adventures Magazine.






Journal Articles

  • '"We have to learn to love imperially": Love in Late Colonial and Federation Australian Romance Novels', Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 4:2 (2014),
  • 'American Popular Culture through the lens of Saidian and Post-Saidian Orientalist critiques' Critical Race and Whiteness Studies, 10:1 (2014),
  • 'Orientalism: An Overview', Australian Humanities Review, Issue 54, May 2013,
  • 'Historical Fictions and Fictions of History', Rethinking History, 15:2 (2011), 297.
  • 'Popular History and the Chinese Martial Arts Biopic', History Australia, 8:1 (2011), 42-66.
  • 'Historicizing The Sheik: Comparisons of the British novel and the American film', Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 1:1 (2010): 'Phantom Limbs and Cultural Ventriloquism: Communication Cultural Difference as a Novelist', Journal of Australian Studies, 32:1 (2008), pp.521- 529
  • 'Love Writes: Gender and Romantic Love in Australian Love Letters, 1860-1960', Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 20, no. 48, November 2005, pp. 343-361.
  • 'Amputations of the Self', Life Writing, vol. 2, no. 1, 2005, pp. 129-139.
  • 'Romancing the Raj: Interracial Relations in Anglo-Indian Romance Novels', History of Intellectual Culture, vol.4, no.1, October 2004. -
  • 'Future Fusions and a Taste for the Past: Literature, History and the Imagination of Australianness', in Kate Darian-Smith, ed., Challenging Histories: Reflections on Australian History, Australian Historical Studies Special Issue, No. 118, 2002, pp. 127-139.
  • 'Women's Travel, Dance, and British Metropolitan Anxieties, 1890-1939', Gender and History, vol. 12, no. 2, July 2000, pp. 366-400.
  • 'Constructions of Gender and Racial Identities in Interwar Women's Travel Writing', Limina, vol.5, 1999, pp. 124-137.
  • 'Shanghaied By Sheiks: Orientalism and hybridity in women's romance writing', Olive Pink Society Bulletin, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1999, pp. 12-21.
  • 'The Continuum of Sexual Violence in Occupied Germany, 1945-1949', Women's History Review, vol.5, no.2, 1996, pp. 191-218. Reprinted in Fiona Montgomery, ed., European Women's History: A Reader, Routledge, London, 2001.
  • '"Space ... the Final Frontier": American nationalism and mid-twentieth visions of the future', Australasian Journal of American Studies, vol.13, no.1, 1994, pp. 27-44.


Book Chapters

  • Orientalism, freedom, and feminism in popular romance culture'. In Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? Edited by William Gleason and Eric Selinger. London: Asghate, 2015.
  • 'The difficult of becoming a civilized human: Orientalism, gender and sociability in Montesquieu's Persian Letters', in Representing Humanity in the Age of Enlightenment, ed. Alex Cook, Ned Curthoys and Shino Konishi, Pickering & Chatto, 2013, pp. 135-148.
  • 'Britishness and Australian Popular Fiction: From the Mid-nineteenth to the Mid-twentieth Centuries', in Sold by the Millions: Australia's Bestsellers, ed. Toni Johnson-Woods and Amit Sarwal (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012) pp. 46-6.
  • 'Gender and Romantic Love in Australian Love Letters', in The Psychology of Love, Vol. 3, Meaning and culture, ed. Michele Paludi (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012), pp. 57-73.
  • '"Bertrice teaches you about history, and you don't even mind!" History and revisionist historiography in Bertrice Small'sThe Kadin', in New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction, ed. Eric M. Selinger and Sarah G. Frantz, (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011)
  • 'Gypsy in the Sun: The Transnational Life of Rosita Forbes', in Transnational Lives: Biographies of Global Modernity, 1700 to Present, ed. Desley Deacon, Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
  • 'Transnational romantic love', Dictionary of Transnational History, ed. Pierre-Yves Saunier and Akira Iriye ( London : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
  • 'Popular Culture', together with Richard White, in Australia's Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire , ed. Deryck Schreuder and Stuart Ward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 336-362.
  • ' 'Orientalism and mass-market romance novels in the twentieth century', in Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, ed. Debjani Ganguly and Ned Curthoys (Melbourne : MUP e-press, 2007), pp. 241-262
  • 'The Americanisation of Romantic Love in Australia ', in Connected Worlds: History in Transnational Perspective, ed. Ann Curthoys and Marilyn Lake (Canberra : ANU E-Press, 2006), pp. 171-192.
  • 'Orientalism', in Companion to Women's Historical Writing, ed. Barbara Caine, Ann Curthoys, and Mary Spongberg ( London : Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005), pp. 389-398.
  • 'Travel', in Companion to Women's Historical Writing, ed. Barbara Caine, Ann Curthoys, and Mary Spongberg (London : Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005), pp. 551-559.
  • 'The Britishness of Australian Popular Fiction', in Exploring the British World, ed. Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw, Kiera Lindsey & Stuart Macintyre (Melbourne: RMIT Publishing, 2004), pp.721-747.
  • 'Multiculturalism and the Problem of Multi-Cultural Histories: An Overview of Ethnic Historiography', Cultural History in Australia, ed. Hsu-Ming Teo and Richard White (Sydney : UNSW Press, 2003), pp. 142-155.
  • 'The Romance of White Nations: Imperialism, Popular Culture and National Histories', in After the Imperial Turn, ed. Antoinette Burton (Durham : Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 279-292.
  • 'Femininity, Modernity and Colonial Discourse', in In Transit: Travel, Text, Empire, ed. Helen Gilbert and Anna Johnston (New York : Peter Lang, 2002), pp.173-190.
  • 'Wandering in the Wake of Empire: British Travel and Tourism in the Post-Imperial World', in British Culture and the End of Empire, ed. Stuart Ward (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 163-189.
  • 'Clean Spaces, Dirty Bodies: The Middle Eastern Desert in British Women's Travel Writing, 1890-1914', in Dealing With Difference: Essays in Gender, Culture and History, ed. P. Grimshaw and D. Kirkby (Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 1997), pp. 23-33.



  • Review: Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film, edited by Tamar Jeffers McDonald. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010. 978-0-8143-3318-1. Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 2:2 (2012)
  • Liz Conor, The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920sAustralian Historical Studies, vol. 37, no. 126 (Oct 2005), 375-376.
  • J.V. D'Cruz and William Steele, Australia 's Ambivalence Towards Asia : Politics, Neo/Post-colonialism, and Fact/Fiction,Australian Book Review, February 2004, no. 258, pp.53-53.
  • 'Condition critical: love's labour's lost. A review of John Armstrong's Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of IntimacyThe Age, 12 May 2002.
  • Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Joss and GoldFar Eastern Economic Review, May 2001.
  • Deirdre Coleman, Maiden Voyages and Infant Colonies: Two Women's Travel Narratives of the 1790s, and Marion Tinling,With Women's Eyes: Visitors to the New World 1775-1918Women's History Review, vol.10, no.1, 2001.





  • MHPG914: Weimar and Nazi Germany



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