Monday, April 27, 2009

Women travellers in the Near East

In an earlier post about temptations I promised to comment on the books I ordered after I have read them. I haven't even started on Flinders Petrie's letters and diaries yet, but Women Travellers in the Near East, edited by Sarah Searight, is a slim volume, which I managed to read on a train to Joensuu and back.

The book is a collection of short articles on several, mainly 19th century British and American women, who travelled in the Near East - or in the Balkans in one case - for various reasons, although the last article concerned archaeologists' wives in the 20th century. The articles concentrate on less-well-known female travellers, most of whom had no "academic interest" in the area where they were traveling. People better acquintanced with British history might find some of these women familiar, but I had never heard of any of them. In that respect it was slightly annoying for me that the articles act as short introductions rather than as actual descriptions of the travels of these ladies. The emphasis of the whole volume is, in fact, not on the travels, but on elucidating how the women described the countries and people they saw on their travels, and how their notions relate to orientalism*.

For anyone interested in the actual travel descriptions, the bibliographies of the articles include the original publications of the travel diaries or letters of these women travellers, as well as references to the other books written about them. So, Women Travellers works very well as a bibliography for further reading or academic work.

*as defined by E. Said in Orientalism (1978)

No comments: