Travel Writing and Gender Prepared by Sara Vahabi
Contents• Inventing an Identity• Fictionalising Processes• Journeys to Self-awareness• Conclusion
Inventing an Identity the difference ability to break freebetween their lives from the constraintsat home and life on of contemporary the road society Women could find escape through travel
• Isabella Bird• Mary Kingsley• Lady Hester StanhopeTravel for some women, it seems, may have offered a means of redefining themselves, assuming a different persona and becoming someone who did not exist at home.
Many travel writers, men and women, have invented themselves in a way always claiming to be writing in a spirit of ‘authenticity’ yet fictionalising their experiences by writing themselves as a character into the account of their travels.
Fictionalising ProcessesIn the 20th century, evidence of a change in the construction of travel narratives can clearly be seen in stylistic terms.Though the I-narrator still occupies a dominant position, the increasing use of dialogue in travel writing has further closed the gap between travel account and fiction, making the travel text resemble the novel much more closely.The protagonist engages in conversations that introduce a rang of other characters into the narrative, and the reader is expected to believe that such conversations which apparently transcend any language barrier are recorded rather than invented.
• Rosita ForbesThe Secret of Sahara: Kufara (1921)Gypsy in the Sun (1944)• Gertrude Bell• Freya Stark
Journeys to Self-awarenessWomen’s travel writing in the late 20th century tends to focus more on the relationship between the individual and the societies through which she travels.Ecological questions, world poverty, and the future of the planet occupy writers such as Dervla Murphy.
Powerful and original voices emerged during the 1990s; Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (1997) represents another strand of women’s travel writing that has grown in importance in the 20th century: the journey that leads to greater self- awareness and takes the reader simultaneously on that journey.
• The works of Bell or Stark, reflect personal, social and political changes, so that the journeys they recount are both inner and outer journeys, toward greater self-awareness as well as greater knowledge gained through experience.• Sara Wheeler’s book goes a stage further, and recounts a journey not only in terms of time and place, but also in terms of gender relation.
Jan MorrisThe assumptions about travel writing and gender are most seriously challenged inher works.Began her writing career as James.Published successful books between 1956-1972.In 1972 had sex-change operation.She did not use the journey as a pretext for reinventing herself or for writingautobiography.Her writing challenges the idea of binary opposition- betweenHome and otherPresent and pastMasculine and feminine.She focuses on the relationship between the travel writer as individual and thespace in which she moves. Everything else is inessential.
ConclusionThe 19th century saw a proliferation of travel accounts by male writers that overtly sexualised whole areas of the globe, contrasting the ‘masculine’ northern regions with the softer, eroticised, feminine Orient. This distinction is less apparent in women travel writers.
The ambiguous attitudes and complex self- representation reflected in the works of Isabella Bird, May French-Sheldon, Mrs Alec-Tweedie and countless others mirror the difficulties for women generally of manoeuvring between the public and private spheres in the age of empire.
The search for self-expression and the reformulation of identity are common elements in the work of many of the travellers discussed in this presentation. butProcess of fictionalisation are also common in the work of many male travel writers.