Skirting the Issue

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

Skirting the Issue

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This chapter traces how women travellers from 1850–1950 negotiate reader reception, skirting the issue of intelligibility and recognition in both home and host countries. The first section of this chapter identifies the strategies used to generate instant reader recognition and cultural belonging, ranging from appeals to national pride, as in Olympe Audouard’s depiction of France’s mission civilisatrice, to the systematic denigration of the foreign Other in Isabella Bird’s descriptions of the Japanese people. It then examines how the identity of the traveller is established through the effacement of male competition. Writers from Jane Dieulafoy to Alexandra David-Néel use their insouciant, incompetent and even injured male counterparts as foils to their own perfect performance as travellers. The final section studies the moment of recognition between traveller and Oriental subject. Focusing on Isabelle Eberhardt’s depictions of Algerian vagabondes from maraboutes to madwomen, it questions whether it is possible to represent the culturally unintelligible without appropriating it.

Keywords: intelligibility; recognition; adventure genre; post-colonial; domesticity and eccentricity; imperialism; social respectability; femininity and feminism; heroic language

Chapter.  10438 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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