Victorian Ladies in the Ottoman Empire

Victorian Ladies in the Ottoman Empire

Lifting the Veil

By Elisabetta Marino

Focusing on prominent accounts by 10 distinguished women writers, who travelled to the Ottoman Empire (in particular, to modern-day Turkey, Egypt, and Cyprus) during the reign of Queen Victoria, this volume analyzes the multi-faceted, often ambivalent and conflicting ways their encounters with Otherness articulated itself to the masses.

Hardback, 250 Pages

ISBN:9781839985829

March 2024

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Focusing on prominent accounts by 10 distinguished women writers, who travelled to the Ottoman Empire (in particular, to modern-day Turkey, Egypt, and Cyprus) during the reign of Queen Victoria, this volume analyzes the multi-faceted, often ambivalent and conflicting ways their encounters with Otherness articulated itself to the masses. 

Especially in Victorian times, a fair number of women perceived travelling as a liberating experience, enabling them to emancipate themselves by abandoning many of the spatial and social conventions enforced in their mother country. Consequently, travel literature often turned into an effective tool to acquire self-awareness, while achieving both personal and literary voices. It also provided an extraordinary opportunity to delve into supposedly unfeminine issues, namely religion, financial affairs, and complicated matters of international politics. The encounter with the Oriental Other also offered women writers the possibility to reflect on their own condition, considering the disturbingly similar state of segregation, commodification, and cultural starvation shared by odalisques, concubines, and the Victorian angel in the house. On other occasions, focusing on the description of the proper household manners and the strict morals of dependant residents (women and children), harems appeared as thoroughly desexualized and domesticated environments. Women authors tended to depict them as mirror images of the middle/upper-class British home. Hence, the patriarchal construct of the seraglio (the privileged site of male domination, female subjugation, and sexual fantasies) fell to powerfully challenging eyes that severely undermined its legacy.

Yet, the majority of the time, British women travelers could not refrain from adopting an Orientalist gaze while relying on widespread misconceptions and stereotypes since they were not just colonized by gender. There were also racial colonizers. They continued to perceive themselves, first and foremost, as British ladies paralleling the conquering mission of their male counterparts by lifting the mysterious veil of the Orient, physically identified with the yashmak worn by the harem inmates. Hence, rather frequently, their travelogues (more or less) unconsciously replicated the very tropes they aimed at challenging, besides displaying a patronizing and objectifying attitude. The tension between authentic sympathy towards the Other and a harsh rejection of difference, between impartiality and a deeply ingrained sense of superiority is, therefore, embedded—albeit in different degrees—in virtually every narrative.

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Author Information

Elisabetta Marino is an associate professor of English literature at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata.” She is the author of four monographs. She has translated poems by Maria Mazziotti Gillan. She has edited/co-edited 10 collections of essays. She has published extensively on travel literature, Italian American literature, Asian American and Asian British literature, and the English Romantic writers.

Series

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Table of Contents

Chapter I – Introduction: Women Travellers in the Ottoman Empire; Chapter II – Julia Pardoe; Chapter III – Sophia Lane Poole; Chapter IV – Harriet Martineau; Chapter V – Emilia Bithynia Hornby; Chapter VI – Emmeline Lott; Chapter VII – Lucie Duff Gordon; Chapter VIII – Annie Jane Harvey; Chapter IX – E.C.C. Baillie; Chapter X – Lady Annie Brassey; Chapter XI – Frances Minto Elliot; Conclusions.

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