European Romantic Review
Critical attention to the writings of nineteenth-century British women travelers has repeatedly stressed their value as evidence of the writers’ attempts at overcoming the constraints of nineteenth-century ideologies of femininity that constructed women as inferior or ancillary (Frawley; Robinson; Foster; Dolan; Middleton); it has also often emphasized the importance of reading them within contemporary discourses such as imperialism, colonialism, or nationalism (Blunt; Frawley; Foster; Mills; Siegel). This essay focuses on three accounts by nineteenth- century British women travelers to Portugal— Marianne Baillie’s Lisbon in the Years 1821, 1822, and 1823 (1824); Julia Pardoe’s Traits and Traditions of Portugal Collected During a Residence in That Country (1833); and Dorothy Wordsworth Quillinan’s Journal of a Few Months Residence in Portugal and Glimpses of the South of Spain (1847)—and similarly situates these travel narratives within the period’s prevailing discourses of gender and nationalism. But in an effort to offer a more nuanced analysis of what, by the nineteenth century, had become the typical representations of Portugal as inferior to England, the essay further contextualizes these depictions of Portuguese culture within what has been termed Europe’s “internal colonialism” (Dainotto 172); in addition, it introduces the notion of “double subjectivity” to argue that in these texts the denigrations of Portugal as an inferior nation are complicated by the authors’ analogously inferior gender position within their culture. For while Portugal was one of the southern countries constructed as “subordinate” by a number of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Eurocentric discourses that culminated in the idea of the south as Europe’s “internal other,”1 it was also Britain’s closest ally and still an empire. Analogously, while the position of British lady travel writers was constructed as “superior” by discourses of nationality, it was concomitantly constructed as “subordinate” within their culture by the prevalent discourses of gender. The writers’ unacknowledged recognition of this shared double subjectivity2—of inhabiting a subject position of simultaneous superiority and inferiority—becomes registered in their first-person narratives through a recurrent rhetorical gesture: on the one hand, these writers affirm their own superiority by separating themselves from Portuguese people and Portuguese culture through a set of representations which reiterate aspects of what Dainotto has called “the rhetorical unconscious of Europe” (8)—i.e., the combination of discourses that accumulated “for around three centuries about and around Europe” (8) and which, as Dainotto has shown, by the early nineteenth-century already contained the notion of “a dialectical and self-sufficient Europe” (13) whose heart was France, Britain and Germany, and whose Other was its south. On the other hand, their texts show eruptions of sympathy that signal the precariousness of the binary they seek to sustain and that thus undermine both the overall negative representations and the cultural hierarchy that shores them up.
Mourão, Manuela, "“The Finest Production of the Finest Country upon Earth”: Gender and Nationality in the Writings of Nineteenth-Century British Women Travelers to Portugal" (2016). English Faculty Publications. 47.