Orient, Travel Narrative, Travel, Narrative, Imperialism, Gender, Victorian, Englishwomen, Great Britain, Ideology, Deconstruction, Middle East, Femininity, Masculinity, Holy Land, Gender Roles, Colonialism, Culture, Orientalism, Identity, Empire, Race, C


Englishwomen who traveled to the "Orient" in the Victorian era constructed an identity that was British in its bravery, middle-class in its refinement, feminine in appearance and speech and Christian in its intolerance of Oriental heathenism. Studying Victorian female travel narratives that described journeys to the Orient provides an excellent opportunity to reexamine the diaphanous nature of the boundaries of the public/private sphere dichotomy; the relationship between travel, overt nationalism, and gendered constructions of identity, the link between geographic location and self-definition; the power dynamics inherent in information gathering, organization and production. Englishwomen projected gendered identities in their writings, which were both "imperially" masculine and "domestically" feminine, depending on the needs of a particular location and space. The travel narrative itself was also a gendered product that served as both a medium of cultural expression for Victorian women and a tool of restraint, encouraging them to conform to societal expectations to gain limited authority and recognition for their travels even while they embraced the freedom of movement. The terms "imperial masculinity" and "domestic femininity" are employed throughout this analysis to categorize the transient manipulation of character traits associated in Victorian society with middle- and upper-class men abroad in the empire and middle- and upper-class women who remained within their homes in Great Britain. Also stressed is the decision by female travelers to co-assert feminine identities that legitimated their imperial freedom by alluding to equally important components of their transported domestic constructions of self. Contrary to scholarship solely viewing Victorian projections of the feminine ideal as negative, the powers underlining social determinants of gender norms will be treated as "both regulatory and productive." Englishwomen chose to amplify elements of their domestic femininity or newly obtained imperial masculinity depending on the situation encountered during their travels or the message they wished to communicate in their travel narratives. The travel narrative is a valuable tool not only for deconstructing transient constructions of gender, but also for discovering the foundations of race and class ideologies in which the Oriental and the Orient are subjugated to enhance Englishwomen's Orientalist imperial status and position. This thesis is modeled on the structure of the traveling experience. In reviewing first the intellectual expectations preceding travel, the events of travel and finally the emotional reaction to the first two, a metaphoric attempt to better understand meaning through mimicry has been made. Over twenty travel narratives published by Englishwomen of varying social backgrounds, economic classes and motivations for travel between 1830 and World War I were analyzed in conjunction with letters, diaries, fictional works, newspaper articles, advice manuals, travel guides and religious texts in an effort to study the uniquely gendered nature of the Preface in female travel narratives; definitions of "travelers" and "traveling;" the manner in which "new" forms of metaphysical identification formulated what Victorian lady travelers "pre-knew" the "East" to be; the gendered nature in which female travelers portrayed their encounters with the "realities" of travel; and the concept of "disconnect," or the "distance" between a female traveler's expectation and the portrayed "reality" of what she experienced in the Orient.


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Stockdale, Nancy


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



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Masters Thesis (Open Access)

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