This essay considers epistemological vocabularies in aristocratic women’s travel writing of the Victorian period, examining the ways in which travelogues use ideas of ‘interest’ to stage the processing and dissemination of knowledge about, and personal experience of, ‘the Orient’ over the course of the nineteenth century. Each of the three travellers who are the main focus of my essay develops her own distinctive model of engagement with the regions in which she journeys: models which nevertheless all turn upon particular invocations of concepts of ‘interest’. I will first discuss what aspects of knowledge these writers are interested in and how they represent their own interest in the East, then analyse the ways through which the publication of their writings appeals to the interests of their British readership, before asking how the travellers’ best interests are furthered or hindered by the modes of epistemological authority they formulate. Ultimately, I argue that these inflections of interest reflect both the British upper class’s increasing emphasis on elite societal and cultural responsibility and, more generally, changing Victorian models of epistemological engagement with the Orient.
Class, Authority, and the Reception of Knowledge in Victorian Women's Travel Writing
Emily Eden and the Theatrics of Empire
This article examines the representation of Indian spaces in the 1830s/1840s travel writing of Emily Eden, sister of the Governor-General of India, and the ways in which these representations shape a fictional 'journey' into Victorian middle-class suburbia in her 1859 novel The Semi-Detached House. Eden's letters home set up an opposition between Indian spaces as essentially public and intrusive, and her remembered English spaces as the secure locations of private selfhood. However, this opposition is challenged by the theatricality of imperial ritual, which turns all spaces into stages of one form or another. These experiences inform Eden's fictional depiction of London suburbia, nearly twenty years later. The tropes of her travel writing are invoked to characterise a journey across class spaces, as the aristocratic protagonists of The Semi-Detached House venture into suburbia and encounter a different form of 'alien other': their bourgeois neighbours. A narrative of cross-class reconciliation ensues, whose apparent security is, however, undercut by the parallels between imperial ritual and bourgeois suburbia's staging of intimate family life.
Katherine Isobel Baxter, Robert Hampson, Julia Kuehn, Grace Moore, Pablo Mukherjee, Kaori Nagai, Muireann O'Cinneide, Alison Sainsbury and Tamara S.con Wagner
Notes on contributors