Discourses of Nineteenth-Century Femininity in Colonial India - Victorian Women Travel Writers and Their Reception
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This study explores how female authored travel texts and their reviews reveal the diversity of discourses in nineteenth-century Colonial India. By combining reception study and close analysis of two travel narratives, this dissertation aims to offer a new perspective on Victorian Colonial writing, by emphasising Anglophone women’s experiences of Anglo-Indian life. Female travel narratives display a complex ambivalence in terms of constricting and situating the female narrative self within the nineteenth-century British discourses of femininity and colonialism. Travel writing therefore provides rich textual materials for exploring the socially, politically, and ideologically complex colonial context. Reading the reviews alongside the travel texts themselves, allows for a reconstruction of the discourses surrounding the Anglophone women travellers’ daily interaction with Indian people, and thus further underlines the multiple perspectives on the British colonial project in general, and female colonial writing in particular. The female travel texts that form the basis for the following analysis are Emma Roberts’ Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan with Sketches of Anglo-Indian Society (1835) and Fanny Parks’ Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque: During Four-and-Twenty Years in the East With Revelations of Life in the Zenana (1850). Feminist and post-colonial literary theory forms the theoretical foundation for exploring how these two distinctly different travellers situates their narrative within the colonial space, where Homi Bhabha’s dynamic description of the colonial meeting and his work on the third space and cultural hybridisation will be of particular importance. Based on a Marxist feminist perspective, combining reception studies with close-analysis of travel writing serve to uncover the patriarchal power-structures that women were working within and operating against in their contemporary reality, which in turn signals the possibilities and limitations of their writing.