The Politics of the Heart: Female Sentimental Travel Writers and Revolution, 1775-1800

  • Author / Creator
    Van Netten Blimke, Linda J
  • The Politics of the Heart: Female Sentimental Travel Writers and Revolution, 1775-1800 addresses the discursive constructions of nation and gender in British women’s sentimental travel writing during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and specifically during the American and French Revolutions. This study is predicated upon two major and intertwined contentions. First, that the convergence of sentimental discourse and the travelogue genre introduced in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768) provided women with an entry point into the male-dominated genre of the travelogue. Eighteenth-century theory, culture, and even science invested women with an acute sensibility; their socially constructed expertise within the realm of feeling consequently allowed them particular authority within sentimental discourse. Sterne’s emphasis on untutored response over erudite reflection and on sociability over critical detachment created a mode of travel writing tailored to women’s putative ‘natural’ abilities, ultimately contributing to the emergence of the female travel writer post-1768. Second, that the combination of affective language and eyewitness authority that characterized Sterne’s new approach offered female travel writers a unique and effective means of describing and directing the socio-political transformation of the British nation during a period when its national identity was being challenged and consolidated through a series of political revolutions. The four travelogues at the center of this study manifest the direct and indirect repercussions of revolution: Janet Schaw’s Journal of a Lady of Quality (1774-1776) and Helen Maria Williams’ A Tour in Switzerland (1798) provide firsthand accounts of the emergent or fully-emerged revolutions in America, France, and Switzerland, while the anonymous author of A Journey to the Highlands of Scotland (1777) and Mary Morgan in A Tour to Milford Haven (1795) deal with the domestic effects of these political crises. Their strategic deployment of sentimental discourse is calculated to shift the political temper of their nation and to shape the contours of British national identity by manipulating the circulation of feeling both within and outside of the nation. Although the women included in this study pull from different directions of the political spectrum, the shared dislocations of travel and revolution help them to reimagine and to rearticulate women’s political subjectivity; the experiences, reflections, and self-representations they offer actively resist conventional definitions of femininity and envision a place for women within the British polity.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Kelly, Gary
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Lemire, Beverly (History)
    • Perkins, Pamela (English)
    • Harol, Corrinne (English)
    • Brown, Sylvia (English)
    • Bishop, Ted (English)