This course focuses on writing by eighteenth-century English women who travelled to the Ottoman empire (centered in modern Turkey), Morocco, and the Mughal empire (covering modern Pakistan and India) during an era when Britain was beginning to establish its dominance globally. From 1716 to 1718, Mary Wortley Montagu travelled as the wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire and wrote the first account of the region by an English woman. In it, she corrects the gendered bias of the English men who had written previous accounts, although she also perpetuates an Orientalist perspective. Elizabeth Marsh, from a merchant family based in the Mediterranean, was captured by Moroccan pirates in 1769 and wrote a narrative of her captivity, also the first by an English woman. It is unclear whether Phoebe Gibbes, whose biographical information remains the most obscure out of these three women writers, ever travelled to India. However, as a prolific writer of novels for over three decades, Gibbes remained concerned with the relationship between coloniality and consumption, and India was, for Gibbes, the locus of this concern. This relationship between empire and proto-capitalist themes is most explicitly explored in her 1789 novel, Hartly House, Calcutta, which we will read together. Examining these English women’s writings alongside their countrymen’s travel and captivity narratives, we will assess how gender, race, religion, and class intersect in these firsthand, and often highly literary, depictions of self and other in a globalized context.
This course will be co-taught by Bernadette Andrea and Unita Ahdifard.