The Inky Body

Dúnlaith Bird

in Travelling in Different Skins

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644162
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949984 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

The Inky Body

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This chapter explores the aesthetic representation of the female form in Orientalist painting and travel writing, and how these forms are contested and even dismembered in the vagabondage travelogue. Roughly following the historical trajectory of Orientalist painting in Britain and France, it opens with Olympe Audouard’s large format, full colour scenes of dismemberment and beheading in the Egyptian harem. It then moves to Isabella Bird’s deceptively simple watercolours and sketches of nineteenth century Japanese life, which conceal elements of monstrous hybridity and bloodless beheadings. It concludes with the twentieth-century surrealism of Isabelle Eberhardt’s travelogues, where the female body dissolves into the Algerian desert. The interweaving of text and image in these representations of the female body is fundamental to the development of the vagabondage travelogue.

Keywords: bodies; Orientalism; aesthetics; harem; painting; dismemberment; Japan; physical danger; Egypt; illegitimacy

Chapter.  12954 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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