Engl6080 – Travel writing theory – examples. One

Download 386.5 Kb.
Size386.5 Kb.
ENGL6080 – Travel writing theory – examples.
From Mapping ‘Self-Other’ to ‘Destroying of Subjectivity’ –Psychoanalytical Approach

Author: Brian Musgrove

Article Title: Travel and Unsettlement: Freud on Vacation

Book Title: Travel Writing & Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit (Edited by Steve Clark)

Theory of Travel: Post-colonial & Psychoanalytical Approaches
Main argument: The ‘travel text as a site of distress and unraveling that is neither necessarily nor adequately explained by post-colonialisms.’ A travel or travel experience could be ‘…an unsettled negotiation of subjectivity; an unraveling of values and sense.’ Therefore, he suggests ‘…to read travel either as a version of Freud’s “instinct of destruction”- an aggressive agency that destroys the ecology of otherness – or an eroticization of the foreign, desire without normal limits, which terminates in rape and exploitation on personal and cultural scales.’
Why people need to travel?

1. It is a primal act; similarly, man is bound to wander over the earth like the beasts in quest for good and shelter. But travelling also provides the pleasure of learning and knowing.

2. Travel could be considered as a heroic journey. The formal basis of the travel genre is in the structure of rites of passage, or the territorial passage from one zone to another, which includes: ‘rites of separation, transition rites, and rites of incorporationrepresenting a critical moment for the identity of the mobile subject. Through these rites (travelling), the traveler hopes to reconsolidate his/her subjectivity (perhaps unconsciously).

3. It is the shift from ‘seeing with one’s own eyes’ to discerning the meaning of what is seen, which the author calls it ‘Witnessing. However, this process could be scattered with differences to traveler’s expectations, disappointments, unfulfilled desire, unsettled frustrations and anxieties.

So when we read travel text, we might discover that:

1. The travel text always supplements the insufficient act of ‘witnessing’ with epistemological reflection (especially if the journey is rather unsatisfactory).

2. Which also means that the perhaps unconscious psychological goal of travelling: ‘the attempt to revise and supplant a pre-existent culture with the travelling-eye-view is not merely a partial but a complete evacuation of the self – an emptying of subjectivity (psychic subjectivity), recognizing that the traveler’s action of wavering between worlds is potentially annihilation.

3. The ‘art of travel ’is not directly about the inscription of power over otherness in post-colonial sense, or the mapping of ‘self-other’, but it is also an anxious sense of being nowhere, a disturbance to or even destruction of subjectivity if examined with the psychoanalytical approach .

Martels, Zwedr Von. Travel Fact and Travel Fiction: Studies on Fiction, Literary Tradition, Scholarly Discovery and Observation in Travel Writing. New York: Leiden, 1994. Print.

Musgrove, Brian. Travel Writing & Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit. New York: Zed Books Ltd, 1999. Print.



Critical approach to travel writing - Travel and gender identity

Source: Susan Bassnett. Travel writing and gender. The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing.

  • Early travel accounts were mainly written by men, who moved freely in the public sphere, e.g. The Odyssey, The Norse Sagas, The Lusiads, etc. However, there are other travel narratives produced by women.

  • The theory of the exceptional women: Women travellers in the 18thC are somehow exceptional, different from normal women, therefore, these women travellers are empowered to perform feats

    • But the problem with this theory is marginalising women’s achievements by setting a benchmark against which women can be measured.

  • Prominence of everyday: women’s travel writings tended to describe more about the daily life, while the male counterparts tended to exoticise the Orient in the colonial background.

    • George Sandys’s 1652 accpunt of his travels in the Turkish empire described the laziness and the lasciviousness of oriental women (in Colonial age)

    • But Lady Montagu, being able to enter oriental women’s private space, described differently about the Turkish women and criticised the male writers of their distortion towards the view of the oriental women due to their erotic fantasies

      • Gillian Rose’s Feminism and Geography: Patriarchal geographic concept : everything is knowable & mappble, i.e. traditional mapping aims to circumscribe, define & therefore control the world Vs Feminine geographic concept: engaging with everyday as an end in itself, but not as a means to a different end, i.e. alternative mapping dealing with tracing patterns from the banal and trivial everyday events.

  • In early colonialism, sexualisation of language of the new territories became common (new lands were metaphorized as female, as virgin lands waiting to be penetrated, ploughed, and husbanded by male explorers). The absence of the role of women travellers from a colonizing country gave them freedom to write with any degree of comfort or familiarity. Women travellers tended to be discursive and personal in their texts.

  • The popular theme of reinventing the identity in women’s travel writings: women find escape through travel and realise their wishes and potentials. However, there is problem with this interpretation, as many travellers (incl. men and women) fictionalise their travel experiences, yet claiming to be authentic. E.g. 19th century author, Isabella Bird.

  • Fictionalising became common in the 20th century in both male and female travel writings. The increasing use of dialogue in travel writing results in the resemblance of the travel text to novel.

  • In the late 20th C, women’s travel writing tends to focus more on the relationship between the individual and the societies through which she travels, and powerful and original voice relating to self-awareness emerged.

    • Example: Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (1997) demonstrated self-awareness and gender relations. In her book, she felt unwelcome by the British men upon her arrival on the British base – “Men were coming and going along the corridors, engaged in a variety of activities but united by the fact they ignored me. Short of erecting a sign outside the base saying “GO AWAY” they couldn’t make it clearer that I was unwelcome” i

i Sara Wheeler, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (London: Cape, 1996), P.195

Sell, Jonathan P.A. (2012), “Embodying Truth in early modern English Travel writing”, Studies in Travel Writing, 16:3,227-228


Embodying truth in early modern English travel writing

Jonathan P.A. Sell*

Between superstition and science
“This essay analyses some of the strategies adopted by early modern traveller-writers to

enhance the historiographical status of their works and strengthen public conviction of the

veracity of their representations. Ultimately, as I hope to make clear, those strategies are

rhetorical: while attempting to emulate the new standards of truth apparently available in

the newly emergent empirical science, their very discursive nature inevitably belies their

claims to reliability, quite simply because words do not deliver reality but only

representations of it, as traveller-writers like Ralegh were well aware. However, in travel

writing of the period under consideration there is a trend towards shoring up credibility

through the development of what I call ‘truth topics’ and, more particularly, the

textualisation of the writers’ own travailed bodies. Such a procedure confers on the worlds

and experiences represented in the texts a realism grounded in a relation of empathy

between writer and reader enabled by their common possession of an acting and suffering

body. The body of the traveller becomes a signifier of experience in its own right as well as

a site of truth made all the more plausible because of the reader’s experiential familiarity

with it. Truth, therefore, is literally ‘embodied’. Consequently, early modern travel writing

draws at times on discursive practices which set a premium on the signic potential of the

body such as the drama or martyrology.

Even if ultimately this recourse to the body as a means of persuasion is the mere

substitution of one part of rhetoric, elocutio, with another, actio, the concern with the truth

status of their works that prompted it situates early modern traveller-writers squarely

within the epistemological upheavals of the period. To put things bluntly, we may say that

the early modern traveller-writer was epistemologically adrift between the ever-receding

Scylla of medieval superstition and the fast-approaching Charybdis of scientific rationalism,

each of which imposed differing hermeneutic priorities. During the Middle Ages the

representations of foreign lands and customs proffered by the peregrinatio were

unproblematically taken for fact because writers and their audiences posited authority

in the same divine truths with the result that the hermeneutic energies of readers could be

invested not so much in acquiring knowledge about the objective particularities of God’s

world as in elucidating what those particularities portended of the world to come. As the

world was God’s book,1 any representations of it became exegetical exercises in finding

spiritual analogies and the final goals of cognition were located somewhere above the

clouds. In contrast, early modern travellers were writing at a time when anagogical

hermeneutics was being challenged and gradually replaced by a more scientific one which

was emerging, in part at least, in opposition to it.2 The focus of hermeneutic energies

reverted to the objective particularities that lay behind the words and cognitive ambition

now had its feet firmly on the ground. The knowledge sought was precisely of those

particularities, and it was the veracity of the textual representations of them that was

scrutinised rather than any sacred truth they might once have figured. As what those

representations conveyed to the reader often strained belief, and as the appeal to God’s

authorship and authority was no longer valid, written accounts of voyages and travels

were habitually greeted with scepticism, while the venerable aphorism about travellers

lying by authority fast became an axiom almost universally taken for granted.

How, then, might early modern traveller-writers overcome the suspicion of mendacity

that always went before them? The Charybdis of scientific rationalism was, though visible

on the horizon, not yet the predominant epistemology. Travellers had yet to be admitted as

members of the Royal Society, which was not founded until 1662 and continued to view

them with suspicion until much later; nor yet had Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle devised

their General Heads for the Natural History of a Country [. . .] for the Use of Travellers and

Navigators, published in 1692.3 Of course, the Royal Society should not be taken as some

sort of terminus ad quem to which intellectual history marched in triumphant procession

from superstition to empirical science: throughout the period, and beyond, the former was

in decline – and in different degrees at different times and places and in different people – but

by no means obsolete, while the latter was only tentatively and inconsistently emerging. The

very fact that early modern traveller-writers might turn as easily to tropes of martyrology as

to modes of dramatic representation is indicative of the epistemological uncertainty of the

age. It may be evident to us today that the drama was somehow on the side of the modern

while martyrology was a worn-out throwback to past belief systems, but few contemporary

thinkers would have had any great confidence in so clear-cut a distinction. Christopher

Hill’s observation that ‘The most striking feature [. . .] of the intellectual life of prerevolutionary

England is its confusion and ferment’ should warn us against formulating

neat teleologies which only distort the fascinating untidiness of history.4”



Chapter 15 ‘Travel writing and its theory’ in The Cambridge companion to travel writing, Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (eds.).(Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Imagining/representing the Other

In Hartog’s words, ‘It is not hard to see why travellers’ tales and utopias frequently resort to this method [of inversion], since it constructs an otherness that is transparent for the listener or reader: it is no longer a matter of a and b, simply of a and the converse of a’. (268)

  • e.g. . ‘There live here a people of evil customs, for fathers eat their sons and sons their fathers, husbands their wives and wives their husbands.’ (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, p. 136)

In the unclaimed lineage of Frantz Fanon – a historical psychology of alterity, for early modern and modern Europeans in the process of creating what the historian refers to as ethnology. ‘What travel literature really fabricates is the primitive as a body of pleasure . . . At the same time that it creates a profit, the voyage creates a lost paradise relative to a body-object, to an erotic body. This figure of the other has no doubt played a role in the modern Western episteme, more crucial than that of the critical ideas circulated through Europe by travel literature’. (271)

  • E.g. Whatever that majority thought might be—that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there. “What’s Rome’s word?” I asked. “SEX,” he announced. “But isn’t that a stereotype about Rome?” “No.” “But surely there are some people in Rome thinking about other things than sex?” Giulio insisted: “No. All of them, all day, all they are thinking about is SEX.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, p. 116)

However nervously we might encounter explanations of history that are located too firmly in individual psyches or the fuzzy notion of ‘culture(s)’, they are a good approach for the unravelling of travel writing, which is produced not only by the culture or society of the person who writes it andthe situation which gives her the authority to speak but also by the writer, a writer, someone who does indeed have a psyche (whether that amounts to a Self or a ‘unified subject’ is not the issue), and whose book is constructed to make its effects through an impact on other (culturally or socially produced) psyches. (272-3)

  • E.g. ‘…its Young-France passengers staring out of the window, with beards down to their waists, and blue spectacles awfully shading their warlike eyes, and very big sticks clenched in their National grasp.’ (Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy, p.322



Travel Literature, a Genre for Reluctant Readers

The genre of travel literature is a combination of genres, of memoir, journalism, letters, guidebooks, confessional narrative, and … fiction”. Using this genre in English lessons can present to readers that it revolves around real adventures, compels narrators and cultural perspectives.

Magnetic draw between people and adventure.

Travel writing appeals to:

create some instability… to keep an individual on his/her toes through travel.

central human characteristic, restlessness, and to the desire of escape for the foreign, the novel and nonindustrial.

experience mental and physical discomfort and danger (panic, sickness, and confusion, homesickness, isolation.
Magnetism of the narrator

Self-imposed hardships that are real

non-fiction or personal stories.

discomfort of the traveler catalyzes enlightenment about the self and the world.

(e.g. living with tribes in Amazon – environmental problems, destruction of the rain forest, gained human faces, increase in emotional involvement.)

(e.g. narrators honestly revealed their guilt, their not politically correct judgements, their mistaken perceptions, their anger, their confusion and frustration, their ignorance.)

author’s ability to reveal their inner journeys parallel the exterior journeys of the readers. Readers see the world through the eyes of someone actually interested in particular geographic region.

Experience the culture shock

Provide another world where readers may enter and become part of the experience.

Travel writing in the past often posited the superiority of western culture; Travel writing today perpetuates this idealization with romanticizing of indigenous cultures.

Travel literature shows the culture of a land with no façade.

They view both the idealization and denigration of other cultures and thus begin to question assumptions they may hold about their own cultures.

This genre can promote a perspective on culture. Students mimic the styles, tone, persona, or theme of the writer when relating an account of their own travels.


Groom, E. (2005). Travel Writing, a Genre for Reluctant Readers. In E. Groom, Methods for Teaching Travel Literature and Writing: Exploring the world and Self (p. 10). New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.


“British Women Travellers and Constructions of Racial Difference across the Nineteenth-Century American West.” Karen Morin

Journal Synopsis:

Morin’s thesis statement for the paper is that “… In this paper, I [she] examine how these women travellers represented western Native peoples, especially Native women, during encounters with them at sites along the western rail lines. Encounters between British women travellers and western Indians' became emblematic of a whole range of socio-spatial relationships of domination, subordination and resistance. Constructions of racial and gender difference in these texts can be traced to British Victorian colonial discourse, as well as to the social relations inherent in the multiple 'contact zones' within which the encounters took place.” (312)

She later explains there was actually a group of British ladies of different classes and jobs travelling to America. As the Great Britain was a more development empire that time than America, these ladies were travelling with condescending expectations (especially towards the native American women). However, later in the contact zone, which was a train station, these ladies found their stereotyping of the Native Americans was wrong:
At the train station, though, real individuals were rarely matched to stereotyped patterns, displaced as they were by the catastrophic reservation system and by white settlements 'replacing and expelling savagery' (Carter 1993). As constructions of racial difference at train stations rested on this contingency (Stoler 1995, 101-16), travellers registered a number of rhetorical disappointments over the Native people that they encountered, such as complaints about their appearance.” (Morin, 316-7)

Figure 1 'The Tourist and the Indian' Henry T Williams, The Pacific tourist, 1876

Through these different encounters, the British women travellers gradually construct differences between themselves and Native American women (in particular their racial differences). Morin later concludes her research in this way:
A multiplicity of discursive subjectivities of both travellers and Native peoples unsettle the notion of essentialized gendered responses and an [sic] homogenous Native American 'other' in these texts. British women's identities were read through many social sites, such as bourgeois discourses on dirt and poverty; racialized bourgeois notions of women's moral authority; and gendered colonialist discourses on women's styles of writing and feminine concerns. Thus, while most of the travellers represented Native Americans as aesthetic objects racialized in dress, manner and hygiene, these complex and intersecting speaking positions produced a diverse range of traveller subject position.” (327)
Literary Theory involved:

From a postmodernistic approach, prior to all constructions, the process of deconstruction always occurs first. Here what Morin is doing is actually a deconstruction process by using races as a vehicle.

The premise on which deconstructionism works here is the huge cultural difference, hence stereotypes, manifested by races in C19th. The ladies visited American by themselves and through witnessing the scenes on their own, they started to understand what they saw was different from what they expected. Deconstruction of the Native stereotypes occurred and later, they gathered what they each observed (as members of different classes and circles) and constructed an observed view of the Native American.
Deconstructionism can be an approach to travel writing because for most of the time, the travelling part is a disguise or a package. Usually, the writer will try to construct a story along the way and deconstruct it at climax, therefore an epiphany (a construction of new ideas/identities) towards the end of the story.
Morin’s paper, despite not being put in a literary context, in my opinion, proves that travelling is a deconstructing process along which new ideas/views can be gradually constructed.
Works Cited

Morin, Karen. “British Women Travellers and Constructions of Racial Difference across the Nineteenth-Century American West.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 23.3 (1998): 311-330. Print.



Susan Bassnett (1999) “Travel Writing within British Studies”, Studies in Travel Writing, 3:1, 1-16

What is travel writing?

“Pratt argues that travel writing is intrinsically linked to the processes of colonisation, though it is important not to lose sight of the fact that travel writing has a long history, as does the use of travel as a literary device. The metaphor of the journey that represents the passage through life is firmly established in the literatures of many cultures around the world.”

“The writer acts as a kind of translator, reading the signs he encounters on his journey and endeavouring to translate them for his target reader. Indeed, it is helpful to think of travel writing as closely linked to translation, for a similar relationship obtains in that there are two distinct poles: the culture of the writer and the culture that is depicted, and only the writer has access to both. The reader has to take on trust the version presented because only the traveller has first- hand experience of what is being described, just as the translator alone has first- hand knowledge of the source language. Moreover, like a translator, the travel writer is creating a text for consumption by readers at home, and in consequence a study of the kind of writing that becomes popular at different moments in time can tell us a great deal about that particular culture. “

Orientalism and Travel Writing

“For, as Edward Said, in his Orientalism points out, there is an intrinsic power relationship in the writing of accounts of other cultures. Said’s focus is on those writers who write about the Orient, but his assumptions can be applied to travel writing more generally. The Orientalist, says Said, “writes about something”, in contrast to the Oriental who is written about. The one becomes the object of the other’s study, and in consequence is placed in a passive role. Said views this difference as disturbing because it implies an inequality in the relationship between observer and observed:

The Oriental is given as fixed, stable, in need of investigation, in need even of knowledge about himself. No dialectic is either desired or allowed. There is a source of information (the Oriental) and a source of knowledge (the Orientalist), in short, a writer and a subject matter otherwise inert.

Orientals and their culture are therefore packaged for consumption by Western readers. “

Travel and Gender

“It is hardly surprising that there is a growing body of research into women travellers, for the gap between their achievements overseas and their expectations and lives at home is enormous. Travel in many cases appears to have provided the space necessary for them to assert themselves, a space denied to them within the conventions of their upbringing in British society. It also seems to have enabled some women to realise their own sexuality in ways that would have been unthinkable at home “



Reference: Blanton, Casey. Travel Writing: The Self and the World. Routledge, 2002
About the Author: Casey Blanton was an Associate Professor of English at Daytona Beach Community College when the book was published in 2002.
Extracts (Preface and Chapter 1): Travel books are vehicles whose main purpose is to introduce us to the other, and that typically they dramatized an engagement between self and world, it was a matter of focusing on the various ways the observing self and the foreign world reverberate within each work. (Blanton, xi)
What we have come to expect today as travel literature contains a balance of these two elements: impersonal and personal. “Successful travel literature,” says Paul Fussell in his anthology (The Norton Book of Travel) about the subject, “mediates between two poles: the individual physical things it describes, on the one hand, and the larger theme that it is ‘about’ on the other” (Fussell 1987, 126). What travel books are “about” is the interplay between observer and observed…The reverberations between observer and observed, between self and world, allow the writer to celebrate the local while contemplating the universal…Among the chief characteristics ( of the genre of travel literature) are a narrator/ traveler who travels for the sake of travel itself; a narrative style that borrows from fiction in its use of rising and falling action, character, and setting; a conscious commitment to represent the strange and exotic in ways that both familiarize and distance the foreign; a writerly concern with language and literature; and finally, thematic concerns that go beyond descriptions of people and places visited. (Blanton, 5)
Travel writing:

  • Introduce readers to the other (foreign world);

  • Focus on the interaction between the observer and the observed;

  • Can be personal (e.g., psychological aspect) and impersonal (e.g., facts); and

  • Can go beyond the factual descriptions of a place and its people.

An example of a journey transformed into a psychological introspection (Chapter 4):

Graham Greene’s Journey without Maps (1936)

Graham Greene’s travel books are perhaps the best examples of what Samuel Hynes (The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England on the 1930s, 228) calls “a dual plane work with a strong realistic surface, which is yet a parable” (Blanton, 60).



Cronin, Michael. Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation

Cork: Cork UP, 2000
Chapter 1: The Rambling House of Language (Boland, Raban, Theroux, Bryson)
Accent, translatability and lexical exoticism:

(9-10) Gibbon’s anxieties are those of all travellers and travel writers who must signal a moment of departure from the familiar and routine… Travelling to another country with a different language makes exoticism readily identifiable. Travel, in that case, appears to have an obvious ally in translation. The departure is real because the linguistic arrival is different… What of the traveller who travels within the same language?

(15-16) Travel writers who move in the space of their own language,…, are noticeably preoccupied with notions of distance and proximity. Due to their closeness to the language of the people that they visit, they most develop strategies of estrangement.
Fractal travel, polyidentity and sublanguages:

A feature of the contact zone, the areas of encounter between the colonisers and the colonized, is the predicament of translation. … What they (intralingual travel writers) make apparent is a common experience of place, the seeming infinity of differences in finite spaces.

(18-19)The fractal experience of travel is a heightened sensitivity to polyidentity and to the infinite discriminations of language itself. The level of awareness of the finer details of language use is related to the tension between what might be termed horizontal travel and vertical travel. Horizontal travel is the more conventional understanding of travel as a linear progression from place to place. Vertical travel is temporary dwelling in a location for a period of time where the traveller begins to travel down into the particulars of place either in space (botany, studies of micro-climate, exhaustive exploration of local landscape) or in time (local history, archaeology, folklore) Literary travel involves these constant shifts between the macroscopic scale of the horizontal and the microscopic scale of the vertical. The sensitivity to language detail is partly then a function of the interaction between the two modes of travel. If translation is conceived of primarily as translation into the mother tongue, then the translator is, from the point of view of mother-tongue competence, first and foremost, an intralingual traveller. S/he must horizontally (going to different regions, countries where the mother tongue is spoken) and vertically (historical sense of language, awareness of detail of place) explore the complex spread of language.
Touring culture and rambling houses:

(22) (T)here is a more fundamental level at which travel and language are connected and this is to do with the nature of language itself. The linguist Charles Hockett has described ‘displacement’ as one of the features that distinguishes human speech from other forms of communication. ‘Displacement’ is the ability to talk about things that are distant in place or time. This ability then allows us to travel to places and periods that we have never seen… Though people may visit ‘sights’, they have already ‘seen’ them in language. … Travel writers themselves contribute powerfully to the construction of national cultures through language.

(23) Thus, the accounts themselves are active interpreters of the cultures through which they travel. They are in this respect translations of a culture into language and like all translations they are productions in time.


Cronin starts this chapter by emphasizing the necessity of departure in travel (writing), which seems particularly challenging for travelers who visit places that share their language: the linguistic arrival is the same. Yet, Cronin argues that because of this challenge, such travel writers develop strategies of estrangement to exert exoticism and are more able to explore the complexity of the language.

Particularly interesting to me are the notion of fractal experience and the term “vertical travel”. He believes that literary travel should involve shifting between the vertical travel and the horizontal one. A translator is first an intralingual traveler if we see translation primarily as translation into the mother tongue.
I look forward to reading the second chapter on interlingual travel writing.



Lesa Scholl, Translating Culture: Harriet Martineaus Eastern Travels, in Travel Writing, Form, and Empire, The Poetics and Politics of Mobility, edited by Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst, 2009, Routledge

_ _ _ _ _


The writer uses Martineau’s Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848) as the basis to talk about the problems of translating culture, in particular Martineau’s travel experiences in Egypt. Martineau wrote the book after travelling with friends to various nations in the East in 1846.


  1. The writer cites Mary Louise Pratt, who refers to the use of translation as a metaphor for analyzing intercultural interactions. The writer goes on to suggest that Martineau translates the cultural contexts of her experiences in the East by allowing for her personal struggle to comprehend the foreign through the challenge it presents to her own cultural lens. (108-9)

  1. This gives rise to domestication, where Martineau justifies what she experiences in English terms. That is, she uses figures and tropes from an English cultural context to describe what she sees, which means that ideas of her home culture are inadvertently but inevitably imposed on the Egyptian cultures to create meaning. (109) In Martineau’s case, by drawing parallels between what is foreign and what is familiar, she could critique her own society (110), promote her own political and moral beliefs (110), teach her audience (113) and educate her home culture (113). For example, Martineau portrays Egyptian slaves as being free, cheerful and intelligent and states that the first aspect of slavery is infinitely less repulsive in Egypt than in America (114).

  1. Regardless of the sympathies that translators or travel writers have for the source culture, and no matter how hard they look at that culture with ‘a free mind and an open heart’, it is impossible for them to become entirely detached from their home culture. It is, in fact, the cultural heritage, formed predominantly by the home culture, which determines what is transmitted from one to the other because the translators or travel writers have their own agenda for how and why they translate the text. (113) It is therefore inevitable that such ‘dispassionate’ travel writers impose their preconceived ideas onto their experiences.

  1. The writer then goes to talk about Martineau being offended by the horrid sight of women dancing, which she relates to the idea of female sexual slavery and lack of freedom. Martineau finds discomfort in knowing that having an uncovered face is indecent and she thinks that the stares of other people contain ‘true Mohammedan hatred of the Christians’. She even advises any Englishwoman against altering their dress in a mere passage through an Eastern country. The writer suggests that Martineau’s disinclination to being absorbed into a foreign culture could be linked back to British imperialism. (116-7)

  1. Travel writers try to make accessible a foreign culture, but readers can only see the foreign culture ‘in translation’, that is, through the travellers’ eyes and understanding rather than their own first-hand experience, they are very often led by the views of the travellers and place value on what the latter deem important. (118)

Therefore, the powerful role of the translators lies in mediating between two cultural contexts, enabling them to promulgate their own conscious and unconscious beliefs. (118)

____________________________________________________________________________ ELEVEN

Michael Cronin, The Rambling House of Language, in Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation, 2000
_ _ _ _ _

The notion of departure is a defining moment of tourist practice where the mundane and the everyday are left behind for the unfamiliar. Travelling to another country with a different language makes exoticism readily identifiable. The departure is real because the linguistic arrival is different and there is a need for translation. (9-10) Then does travelling in the same language, ie, intralingual travelling, liberate the writer from the difficulties of translation?


  1. The supposed ease in the use of language in intralingual travelling is undermined by, for example, accent, dialects, jargon, sublanguages, register. According to the writer, accent has the following functions in travel writing: (12-13)

  1. exoticising effect

  2. gives credibility to the travel account through reproduction of ‘authentic’ speech of the speakers

  3. comic condescension

  4. indices of cultural assimilation when the traveller takes on the accent of that place.

  1. The more opaque the accent is for the listener, the more negative the representation of the speakers. The more the accent resists translation, the more sinister its implications are. (13-14) The speakers must either be translated and become interpretive subjects or remain untranslated and become objects of speculation and dread.(14)

  1. The writer concludes that it is arguable the encounter with different varieties of the traveller’s own language creates an even sharper sense of specific linguistic identity. The outcome might be condescension, where the variety spoken by the traveller is deemed culturally superior, or plurality in the form of tolerance and the virtues of non-ethnocentric relativism. (16)

  1. Therefore, the multiple instances of translation found in intralingual accounts point to the translation phenomenon being present across different scales of enquiry. Whether travel is examined across galaxies, continents, countries or regions, the complexity of the translation encounter remains constant.

  1. In the next section, the writer talks about polyidentity, which means that a traveller can assume, for instance, the national identity of an Irishman, the continental identity of a European, a class identity as petty bourgeois, a gender identity as male and racial identity as white. The level of awareness of finer detail of language use is related to the tension between ‘horizontal travel’ and ‘vertical travel’. The former refers to the more conventional understanding of travel as a linear progression from place to place (macroscopic scale) whereas vertical travel (microscopic scale) is temporary dwelling in a location for a period of time where the traveller begins to travel down into the particulars of the place either in space (e.g. botany, study of climate) or in time (e.g. local history, archaeology). There are often moments of dwelling-in-travelling where horizontal travel gives way to vertical travel. The sensitivity to language detail is partly then a function of the interaction between these two modes of travel. (18-19)

Therefore, it is a truism of translator training that translators must be initiated into the culture of the foreign language because word have connotations and languages have contexts. (24) In addition it is often assumed that people speaking the same language understand each other, but the truth is the illusion of understanding in intralingual travelling is all the greater because translation is not believed to be a problem. (25)

Susan Orlean, My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere (New York: Random House, 2004)

About the writer: (http://www.susanorlean.com/)

Susan Orlean is an American writer, journalist and lecturer. She now writes columns for magazines including The New Yorker.

Interesting Quotes:

“To be honest, I view all stories as journeys. Journeys are the essential text of the human experience--the journey from birth to death, from innocence to wisdom, from ignorance to knowledge, from where we start to where we end. There is almost no piece of important writing--the Bible, the Odyssey, Chaucer, Ulysses--that isn't explicitly or implicitly the story of a journey. Even when I don't actually go anywhere for a particular story, the way I report is to immerse myself in something I usually know very little about, and what I experience is the journey toward a grasp of what I've seen. I picture my readers having the same expedition, in an armchair, as they begin reading one of my pieces and work their way through it, ending up with the distinct feeling of having been somewhere else, whether it’s somewhere physically exotic or just the “somewhere else” of being in someone’s life.”

“The panel on travel writing went on as scheduled, and one of the first questions we were asked was what we thought would happen to travel writing in the new world that 9/11 seemed to have brought forth. I thought it was a legitimate question. Should anyone write about – or read about - what it’s like to snowshoe through Alaska or raft in Costa Rica when the world seemed to be falling apart? Would anyone in his or her right mind have any interest in leaving home when the universe seemed so threatening? What I said then, and still believe, is that human beings are stubbornly and persistently curious and that I can’t imagine we will ever lose our desire to know what lies beyond our immediate horizon. At a time when the world feels chaotic and frightening, writers who go out to see it and describe it seem more important, not less. Even fluffy, expository stories about pretty places matter if people are less inclined to travel, since then the writer acts as the reader’s proxy, bringing back the world that most people might be reluctant to go out and see for themselves. At the most elemental level, the world’s troubles are the result of people turning inward and turning away from whatever and whoever is different and unfamiliar. If a writer can make even one reader feel more open to someone or someplace new, I think he or she has accomplished something well worth doing.”


This theory suggests that though the world may seem different than before, the role of travel writers has never changed. In the “Introduction” to her book, Susan Orlean sees travel writing as a journey, that can satisfy readers’ curiosity by bringing them to other parts of the world in the writing. Though people are more mobile and flexible now than ever, most are still reluctant to travel because of the 9/11 incident. The fear seemed to have taken over their desire to explore. Yet Orlean believes that travel writing is extremely important in the chaotic world. When people are reluctant to travel aboard, writers need to act as proxy and explore the world on behalf of their readers, because human beings are stubbornly and persistently curious. Orlean wishes readers can see and experience the unfamiliar and different world through travel writing narratives.

Examples of travel writing:

Anita Isalska (ed.), 24 October, 2013 (2:49 a.m.), “Lonely Planet’s travel nightmares,” Lonely Planet blog, accessed Nov 1, 2013, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/2013/10/24/lonely-planets-travel-nightmares.

This blog post comprises of different travel disasters people meet when they are on board. The incidents described by travellers often send a shiver to those who read it. Online travel blog posts matches Orlean’s idea, that people get to know the specialty of different places by reading the travellers’ journey. Writers would normally provide detailed information about the journey, including their likes and dislikes, though in this blog post it wasn’t mainly about natives or customs but travel disasters. For example in the section titled “Brothel-bound in Malawi”, the writer described the rough and uneasy local bus journey to Lilongwe, which certainly was a nightmare to every traveller. Readers were thrown into a chaotic bus journey together with the writer and his girlfriend.

Thomas Adam and Nils H. Roemer, eds. 2011. Crossing the Atlantic: travel and travel writing in modern times (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press).

The author (Thomas Adam) of this essay (‘Travel, gender, and identity’) begins his examination with Mary Wollstonecraft’s statement in 1792:

[a] man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occure on the road; the impression that she may make on her fellow-travellers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation.

By comparing the parallel travel journals of a couple, George and Anna Ticknor, who travelled to Saxony and lived there from November 20, 1835 to May 11, 1836, Adam seeks to test ‘whether female travel accounts differ from those written by men in any fundamental way’ (pp. 205, 191).

The author begins by summarising the several assumptions made about women travel writers and goes on to draw on the caution of Mills and Shirley Foster that we should not ‘overemphasize and overgeneralize specific traits of female travel writing’ (p. 194). Instead, it is necessary

to formulate more complex models of gender difference, in order to move away from simple polarization of gender difference, towards a multi-layered analysis where gender is sometimes the most salient feature in the production of a text and, at other times, is mediated through other factors (p. 194).
Adam further advises us to turn, as recent trends seem to show, to the focus on processes:

The more recent turn toward postcolonial studies caused scholars of travel writing to focus on the processes in which European travelers produced images and narratives about the non-European world and about Europe that deeply influenced Europeans’ perception of the world. In this process, female travelers seemed, ... , to have been subjected to discursive constraints as much as their male counterparts. Discourses on colonialism and imperialism structured the thinking of Europeans and, thus, determined ‘that certain elements are perceived as noteworthy and that they are classified in certain ways. (p. 194).

At the end, Adam believes that ‘(O)nly an eye for detail and the occasional but distanced inclusion of common people set Anna Ticknor’s travel journals apart from those of her husband’ (p. 206), subtly suggesting that female travel accounts do not seem to differ from those written men in a fundamental way.



Clark, S. (1991) Gender and Genre in Nineteenth-century Travel Writing: Leonie dAunet and Xavier Marmier, in Travel Writing and Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit, Ch4, London; New York: Zed Books: Distributed exclusively in the USA by St. Martin's Press
In feminist criticism, the relationship between gender and imperialism is often used to explain why women can identify more with the oppressed. The explanation is that since women were the oppressed ones in a patriarchal society, they can relate more to those being oppressed and exploited. It also gives account for the binary opposition created: man=colonizer and women=colonized. This binarism is strongly criticized for failing to include the role of woman as colonizer and other social forces.
The theory behind the above is that man needs the ‘distance’ to subjugate others, to colonize others, while women don’t, because woman constructs her identity through ‘sameness’. Her bond is enhanced by her capacity for child-bearing and nurture. It is their nature to bond with others, instead of creating distance like man.
Obvious examples to illustrate the theory explaining gender and travel writing can be found in Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The narrator is a female and throughout the whole novel, she writes about people and everyday life of local people around her during her stay in India. She even writes about her own family history and her personal relationship with a married India man. This novel is an apparent example to demonstrate that female writers often like to write about the private domain of their life which fits well to the theory, about how women connects with the oppressed (the Indian ruled by the British in 1920s) and how she relates more to the local Indians instead of the British.
I personally don’t agree with the theory mentioned above, since everyone’s style of writing is different and it is impossible to draw a clear cut to male and female writings. One example that I thought of to prove my point is The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. In his novel, he interacts with the locals and bonds over with the underprivileged, like those young prostitutes and the soldiers that were paralyzed for their participation in the Vietnam War. Man can too relate and identify with the colonized and not every male travel writers have the instinct to colonize others.



There are two examples of travel writing theory excerpted from Professor Ali Behdade’s article, ‘The Politics of Adventure: Theories of Travel, Discourses of Power’ (Behdad, 2009). In the examples, Professor Behdade aims to explore the politics of European adventure in the Middle East by focusing on the French tradition in the late seventeenth century that was marked by the exotics of adventure.

The examples are Jean Thevenot’s Voyage du Levant (1656) and Jean-Baptiste Tavernier’s Les six voyages en Turquie et en Perse (1681). Professor Behdad states that ‘in those writings, the Orient is presented as exotic and different, making it an object of European curiosity. But although the exotics of adventure, expressed in these narratives through curiosity, might embody a desire for domination, such desire is mostly a fantasy when the places visited, such as Persia and Turkey, are empires themselves.’ (Behdad, 2009)
Professor Behdad said that ‘the advent of Orientalism in France took place in the second half of the seventeenth century with the rise of mercantilism and the expansionist policies of Colbert, Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance. His financed foreign journeys all enabled the conditions and interests for exploration abroad, which in turn served the state’s new economic interests. He also financed French travellers to publish their travelogues in order to inform the public about the non-European world. After the mid-seventeenth century, travel literature thus became a major literary genre in France.’ (Behdad, 2009)
In the first example, Thevenot’s Voyage du Levant [Travel the Orient] starts by emphasizing the desire to travel as follows:
The desire to travel has always been quite natural among men; [but] it seems to me that this passion has never incited them as strongly as it has in our days. The great number of travelers who cross paths in all parts of the world sufficiently supports this hypothesis and the volume of travelogues that have appeared over the past twenty years leaves no doubt about it: there is no one who is drawn to beautiful things, who is touched by what he learns from them, and very few who, if they were not held back by pressing attachments at home, would not want to witness and observe such things themselves. It is these beautiful relations that made me first think about traveling and since in the year 1652. I did not have any considerable business that prevented me from leaving. I decided to satisfy my curiosity by following the movements that these relations had inspired me to undertake. (Thevenot, 1980, 31)
Professor Behdad analyses that ‘although the desire to travel is viewed as a natural phenomenon, the origin of this desire is travel literature, and Thevenot quickly acknowledges the mediated nature of his passion, or curiosity, to see other worlds: it is his reading of the belles choses [beautiful things] of recent travelers that has given him the idea to travel in the Middle East. Adventure is a mediated phenomenon: there is always already an inter-text (that is, another travel narrative) that informs every traveller’s desire. But the effect of this mediation is here described as curiosite [curiosity], a word that signifies a lack of serious interest in the Orient. The belles choses of other travelers inspire Thevenot to satisfy his curiosity, he points out. For, unlike later travelers of the eighteenth century, Thevenot has no professional or pedagogic interest in traveling. The seventeenth-century adventurer travels for the pleasure of seeing other worlds, so places must be marvelous and unknown to interest a man of leisure like Thevenot. What characterizes the seventeenth-century adventurer is an exoticist mode of travel, and his desire for difference is revealed in the frequent appearance of terms such as: le merveilleux [marvelousness], l’inconnu [unknown], and la curiosite [curiosity] in seventeenth-century travelogues.’ (Behdad, 2009)
The second example of Tavernier’s Les six voyages en Turquie & en Perse [The six journeys in Turkey and Persia] is to explore and capture the exoticism of cultures in the Orient. It starts as follows:
One cannot travel in Asia as one would in Europe; trips are not undertaken at all hours of the day nor with the same ease. One does not find cars going every week from one city or province to another, and the countries are markedly different. In Asia, one sees regions that are entirely uncultivated and uninhabited; or one finds men who either because of the harshness of the climate and the terrain, or because of laziness, prefer to live in poverty rather than work. There are vast deserts to be traversed, passage across which is dangerous because of lack of water and the crossings of Arabs. In Asia, one does not find inns that are orderly and well-run, or hosts who care to take travelers in and treat them well. (Tavernier, 1981, 39)
Professor Behdad analyses that ‘at the beginning of Tavernier’s travel narrative he describes a crucial difference: one cannot travel in Asia as one might travel in Europe, the main reasons being that there are neither adequate means of transportation nor the safety and hospitality one encounters in Europe. A further crucial difference is that both the geography and the people of the Orient are the exact opposite of those in Europe. He describes towns that are uncultivated, depopulated, and deserted; people who are inhospitable, lazy, and violent; and a landscape that is arid, desolate, and dangerous. Tavenier’s remarks reveal the seventeenth-century traveller’s role as an observer and narrator of the Orient’s exoticism. Indeed, every European seventeenth-century travelogue emphasizes its cultural, political, and geographical differences, differences that marked the Middle East as exotic, the place where one finds one’s other. This is not just a lawless region consumed by its impetuousness and exhausted by and excess of sexual expenditure, but also the place of Europe’s desire. In the Orient, the adventurous traveler looked for a projected desire, the fantasy and exoticism he could not find in France. It is for this reason that a seventeenth-century traveler like Tavernier wrote not only travel narratives describing his voyages in the Middle East, but also accounts of the Sultan’s seraglio. For central to the production of and exotic vision of the Orient were the images of the harem, the inaccessible space of alterity onto which fantasies of power and eroticism were projected. In the seventeenth-century travelogue, a discussion of oriental sexuality and the portrayal of the harem was a topos oblige, as the traveler felt culturally and financially compelled to penetrate the secret realm of the seraglio and explore the topic of oriental sexuality for his French audience. The seventeenth-century traveller’s erotic vision of the harem is symbolic of France’s colonialist desire, a desire that would be realized more effectively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.’ (Behdad, 2009)
Furthermore, from Tavernier’s dedicatory note to Louis XIV in La nouvelle relation du serrail (1702), we can see the productive function of harem discourse in colonial relations of power as follows: ‘It seems to me that all the kings of Asia and Africa are made for the sole purpose of one day becoming your tributaries, and that you are destined to rule the entire world.’

Behdad, A. (2009) ‘The Politics of Adventure: Theories of Travel, Discourses of Power’ in Kuehn, J. & Smethurst, P. (eds) Travel Writing, Form, and Empire, London, Routledge.

Tavernier, J. Les six voyages en Turquie & en Perse Vol. I (Paris: Librairie Francois Maspero, 1981), p.39.

Thevenot, J. Voyage du Levant (Paris: Librairie Francois Maspero, 1980), p.31.



Reference: Catherine Mee (2009) Journalism and travel writing: from grands reporters to global tourism, Studies in Travel Writing, 13:4, 305-315.
This article discusses the genres of travel writing and journalism. To start with, “journalism and travel writing are two genres that have suffered a lack of critical attention because of their uncertain status as literature.” The distinction between the traveler who writes and the writer who travels is “a direct and naive perception of reality versus a mediated vision”. In other words, the reason not to regard travel writing as literature is the questioning of its truthfulness as it has been “mediated” by the writers. The author argues that “the commitment to facts restricts the writer’s creative talents”. Therefore, though writers have certain “commitment to the truth and the representation of the real”, the referential nature of travel writing is still a concern. Nevertheless, as the author notes, “it would be regrettable if travel writing only attracts attention when it is deemed to be sufficiently literacy”.
In addition, instead of demonstrating how travel writing differs from journalism, Mee shows how travel writing can be benefited from it. There are three principal ways in which travel writing could draw on journalism, namely through greater attention to the present, the political and the individual.

  1. “Travel writing can learn from journalism’s heightened awareness of the present and emphasis on current events”. “Attention to the present can cut short the cycle of travelers who arrive at their destination clutching an out-of-date classic of the genre and are disappointed to find that the local culture has not been preserved under the glass”. Besides, compared to journalism which has been criticized for its lack of depth of the broader issues over the long term, “the book-length format and the extended period of travel, writing and publication allow space and time for greater elaboration than is possible in most forms of journalism”. Travel writing can thus play a role that is complementary to other media. (309-310)

  2. “As with an attention to the present, so an engagement with the political can better enable travel writing to avoid burying itself in myths and stereotypes”. For instance, Guillebaud’s Les Confettis de l’empire distinguishes his own writing on Tahiti from that of others; he provides a representation of the island that is more attentive to the current lives of its inhabitants than exotic clichés.” (311)

  3. Olivier Weber, for example, all his travel books take the reader through a multitude of encounters. “Weber meets dozens of people, often reporting events from different angles through the eyes of a range of interlocutors. In Chasseurs de dragons, he examines the opium trade through interviews with poppy farmers, traffickers, police and addicts from across the globe. This contact with individuals and attention to their particular circumstances also helps to maintain the emphasis on the present and the political.” (312)

Overall, “in a wider sense, attention to the present, the political and the individual helps travel writing to assume its position, and the responsibilities that go with it, in the context of global tourism”.



Carl Thompson, Travel Writing, published by Routledge, 2011

Chapter 6: Representing the Other – “Strategies of Othering I: Travel Writing and Colonial Discourse”
Thompson observed that there are 2 senses of ‘othering’. In a weaker, more general sense, ‘othering’ simply denotes that the members of one culture identify and highlight the differences between themselves and the members of another culture. In a stronger sense, it has come to refer to the processes and strategies by which one culture depicts another culture as not only different but also inferior to itself.
Many travelogues historically have produced an image of the Other which licenses a sense of cultural superiority in both traveller and audience, thereby helping to generate or reinforce a range of prejudicial, ethnocentric attitudes.
Instances of pejorative ‘othering’ in travel writing serve an important justificatory function. They may legitimate the traveller’s personal conduct towards the people he or she met; more crucially, perhaps, they also often work to legitimate the conduct of the traveller’s culture. The traveller’s portrayal of another people or place is often in this way ideologically motivated, seeking at some level to justify and encourage a particular policy or course of action towards those others.
For instance, in Orientalism, Said explored Western images of the so-called ‘Orient’, in which he detected many of the representations having the same underlying repertoire of stereotypes and unquestioned assumptions. The recurrent motifs, Said suggested, were not necessarily an accurate description of the objective reality of the highly diverse cultures and ethnicities of Asia and the Middle East, rather, they were a set of representational conventions which had become pervasive. These motifs and images came to constitute a discourse, which denotes an accumulated archive of knowledge and imagery which comes to shape a culture’s attitudes and assumptions on a given topic, and which according dictates what is likely to be regarded as true, and as proper knowledge, in that subject area. ‘Orientalism’ is thus, for Said, a discourse in Western culture which has consistently worked to construct a singular ‘Orient’ as the antithesis of a supposedly more enlightened West. The simplistic, negative ‘othering’ of Asia and the Middle East, has generally served ideological ends, and has often been used to justify the West’s colonial ambitions in these regions.


Title: Exploring their Boundaries: Gender and Citizenship in Women's Travel Writing, 1880–1914

Author: Laura Godsoe


  • Colonial constructions.

  • Mapping ‘self-other’ - psychoanalytical approaches

  • Travel and gender identity

Exploring their Boundaries: Gender and Citizenship in Women's Travel Writing, 1880–1914

These women spoke of their travel as a contribution to the French empire and were recognized for that work. Their published works helped to educate the public about the empire and fostered an interest in the colonies. They also helped to promote colonial travel and tourism and served as influential members of a variety of organizations centered around geographical exploration and colonialism.

These female explorers also frequently wrote of their efforts to educate the indigenous residents of the colonies about the benefits of French rule. In particular, they claimed to be able to connect meaningfully with indigenous women and children in ways that men could not. Mme Pomerol was very interested in the status of women and children and spent a number of years in close contact with several groups of African women.[28] Like many other authors, she proclaimed that, despite their differences, all of the women she met on her travels embraced her, saying: "'You are our sister.' . . . Great ladies and desert princesses proclaimed it with the same innocence as the dancers or the camel herders' daughters."[29] Mme Du Gast also described her work with local women, handing out medicines and candy in the tiniest hamlets.[30]

The oft-proclaimed "sisterly bonds" between these female explorers and native women did not always foster an increase in cultural sensitivity. Most of the former seemed to accept unquestioningly the underlying assumptions upon which the "civilizing mission" and imperialism more generally were based—that is, that the local populations of the French Empire had previously possessed a culture and society that were backwards, irrational, and pre-modern, and that they would benefit from the forceful imposition of French rule.[31] In fact, the French women wrote with great pride of their efforts to cement that rule. Mme Massieu noted that, after completing a trip through Morocco, she experienced "a childlike joy and a spark of pride knowing that the tricolor floats once again in these regions."[32] Mme Du Gast was also eager to help the French government gain influence in the same region. After describing the ambivalence felt by most residents about the benefits of French rule, she wrote that, after eleven months of travel in the countryside, she felt she had improved the image of France, the key to this task being; "a nice horse, a calm demeanor, authority and generosity."[33] Speaking of her imminent return to the Moroccan countryside, she stated that she would try "to the best of my ability, to continue this useful enterprise and to succeed finally in spreading across Morocco the influence of our country."[34] Du Gast also attended the Algeciras Conference, where one admirer writing in Femina claimed that, "It is not useless to hope that there, where the diplomats have not been able to succeed, the diplomacy of a woman might be able to."[35]

These explorers distinguished themselves from the majority of female authors of travel narratives by flouting the rules governing a white woman's conduct and appearance when abroad. Despite this, they were praised in many circles: within the pages of the women's press, in the literary world, in the world of travel and exploration, and among supporters of the colonial cause.

Support for the Third Republic was high throughout the women's press in this period. Even explicitly feminist publications such as La Fronde made sure to proclaim their desire to serve the needs of the state. This was particularly important in a period where women were working to gain more social and legal rights. Showcasing their devotion to the goals of the Third Republic, in this case colonial expansion, may have helped to lessen the backlash against the new models of female behavior becoming popular at this time and their perceived contribution to the breakdown of bourgeois family values, the declining birth rate, and the degeneration of the French race.[36]

By embracing the colonial cause whole-heartedly and explicitly framing their travel as a service to the state, these explorers were able to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior for women. By portraying their travel as a contribution to something greater than themselves, by helping to educate the female reading public about the empire, and by trumpeting the importance of women's work in empire building, they were able not only to highlight the role that women could play in the state, they made their own rejection of bourgeois domesticity more palatable. When they became explorers rather than travelers, they created new opportunities for themselves—and yet, as they loosened the bonds of their own social roles, they strengthened those of imperial rule.

The article examined how the traditional colonizing goals of European men are passed onto French women explorers. Throughout the discourse, women remained involved in social, interpersonal tasks where they attempted to make connections and teach ideas to the indigenous people. As noted by the author, the women explorers were also caring about the well-being and statuses of the others. This connection between the female explorers and the natives was unique, and exclusive. Perhaps it may be due to the fact that female and male explorers had different objectives in their imperialistic approach. While male explorers sought after resources, physically exploring a new land, the former group sought to exert cultural influences, to represent France in a positive light to the natives and so will have more opportunities to interact with the natives on the individual and personal level.

Historically, women had defined themselves through their roles in the home. When female explorers were away from their own homes, they were trying to find their identities through defining their important influences over the natives, and to their countries. Female explorers who were once constrained in the domesticated sphere and unable to assert any difference in their own countries, could now gain power and recognition through their art of persuasion, empathy, and acts of giving towards the indigenous population. Throughout the discourse, the female explorers had forsaken some parts of their feminine image to achieve the imperialistic mission. They understood natives through their own understanding while they strategically maintained an emotional distance and this was noted by the author to be cultural insensitivity. They had taken up a task-oriented attitude that was dominant in the patriarchal traditions, yet their role maintained some feministic qualities that would be beneficial and influential towards their imperial purposes.

Notes from article

  1. Pomerol,"Femmes du désert," 288.

  1. Ibid.

  1. Du Gast,"Pourquoi je suis ... ", 384.

  1. Many of these narratives were littered with racist stereotypes and derogatory comments regarding indigenous people. For examples, see Neron, "Souvenirs d'une voyageuse,," 1, and Pomerol, "Femmes du désert," 288

  1. Massieu, "Mme Massieu," 83.

  1. Du Gast, "Pourquoi je suis ..." 384.

  1. Ibid.

  1. Du Gast, "Mme du Gast au Maroc," 162.

  1. See Mary Louise Roberts, Disruptive Acts: The New Woman in Fin-de Siècle France (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002).


Godsoe, L. (2009). Exploring their boundaries: Gender and citizenship in women's travel writing, 1880–1914.



Burroughs, Robert. “Imperial Eyes Or ‘The Eyes of Another Race’? Roger Casement’s Travels in West Africa.” Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History 37.3 (2009): 383-397 Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.

Burroughs uses Casement as a case study to exemplify the travel writer is influenced by the colonizer as well as the colonized in postcolonial context. He elaborates copiously “this article has emphasized that Casement’s discontent with British incursions in West Africa also reflects his political affinities with liberally minded British imperial travel writers in West Africa, including Kingsley. It has furthermore identified that his own travels and meetings with Africans, and the writings that these produced, were crucial in revealing to Casement the paradoxes of his position. This article there- fore illustrates that, while travel writing from imperial contexts often projects attitudes instilled in the traveller by the society from which he or she departs, it can also record how those attitudes were mediated by the act of travel itself and the intercultural encounters it produced” (394).

_________________________________________________________________________________________ TWENTY

Blanton, Casey. Travel Writing: The Self and the World (2002).

  1. “…reader is swept along on the surface of the text by the pure forward motion of the journey while being initiated into strange and often dangerous new territory…the traveler’s encounter with the other its chief attractions” (p.2)

  2. “…the bifurcation of the travelling self into “considering subject and considered object” (Stout, 14) where the experiences in the outer world can be “transferred” to the self that is being scrutinized, thus converting the journey into a mode of introspection” (p.3)

  3. “They (travel books) are instead metaphors of a quest for ground zero – a place where values are discovered along the way, not imported; a place where other cultures can have their say; a place where self and other can explore each other’s fictions; a place that, as Ismael warns us, “is not down on any map”.” (p.29)

The above quotes from Chapter 1 Narrating Self and Other: A Historical Overview examines the transformation of travel from literal to symbolic/psychological journey.

Earlier travel writings depict journeys of departure, adventure and return which the external world/others are subject of exploration and subjugation. Marco Polo’s description of the Zanibar as “devils” confirms the medieval view of the mysterious, grotesque and foreign East. Such xenophobia gives rise to “monomyth” - the hero’s victory over the others/unknown, as exemplified in Columbus renaming the Caribbean island – possession of the others.
Travel experience is later evolved from impinging “the others” as subject to identifying oneself also as subject of writing. The external world/others are stimuli to one’s intellectual development and even led to ones self-discovery. For instance, the Grand Tourists see travelling as education and self-development while Lady Montagu identifies herself with the Turks as subject to the men/West.
Such self-reflexivity paves way for the 20th century travel writing - metaphor for one’s quest/discovery – a place for the study of the interaction between self and others but “not down on any map”.


Download 386.5 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2022
send message

    Main page