Bearded Queens and Amazons

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

Bearded Queens and Amazons

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Cross-dressing in women’s travel writing of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be seen as a carnivalesque affair, featuring bearded ladies and flamboyant Queens. Using the performative gender theories of Judith Butler and Marjorie Garber, this chapter questions the extent to which such theatrical cross-dressing allows European women travel writers to transgress social boundaries in their home and host countries. The first section of this chapter considers Jane Dieulafoy’s painstaking construction of textual legitimacy for her cross-dressing, which both invokes and abjures the legacy of bearded Queens by displacing it along Oriental cultural fault lines. It then examines the tensions that emerge in Isabella Bird’s travelogues as a result of the author’s determination to convincingly perform femininity in the Orient for her British audience. The final section explores Isabelle Eberhardt’s more radical constructions of linguistic and physical gender vagabondage in Algeria and Tunisia, and the restrictive social mechanisms they provoke.

Keywords: cross-dressing; cross-cultural dressing; disguise; costume; gender norms; carnival; amazon; Marjorie Garber; drag; textual authority

Chapter.  11979 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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