Selling the Skirt

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

Selling the Skirt

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Combining paratextual and textual analysis with an examination of contemporaneous reviews and external marketing, this chapter explores how women travellers position gender identity as a key selling point of their travelogues. The first section considers the travelogue’s paratext, including titles, bindings and frontispieces, and their intended impact on the purchaser. It then moves from a comparison of prefaces and narratorial positioning to a study of content in these Oriental travelogues, suggesting that the gender ambiguity introduced by vagabondage is central to their commercial attraction. Having briefly discussed the question of metatext, the final section addresses the figure of the author, interpreting reviews and public appearances by these women travellers as a form of external marketing for the travelogue. Debunking images of the humble author pushed into publishing by mistake, this chapter shows how women travel writers from 1850-1950 commodify themselves within and without the text, using their bodies to market their travelogues, literally selling the skirt.

Keywords: commerciality; publishing; reader expectations; literary market; publicity; gender norms; hybridity; exotics and erotics; paratext

Chapter.  12815 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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