Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: From contact to collision : Western women in China 1880-1900
Author: McGovern, Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3624 3643
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2006
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Western narratives about China in the late nineteenth century are riddled with contestation and tension. This thesis explores the contradictory positions held by travel writers who insist that, whilst China is stagnating, the Chinese also act as a force of 'Yellow Peril' with the capacity to pollute western identity. Whilst travel writers do not question the supposed racial superiority of the West, contact with the Chinese creates uncertainties and fractures in the production of Orientalism. This thesis argues that gender plays an intrinsic role in the production of this discourse, although it shapes women's travel writing differently from male narratives about China. Through a close reading of travel texts, this thesis argues that the increased presence of western women in China in the last two decades of the nineteenth century both complicates and affirms colonial authority in wider travel writing about China. Furthermore, Chinese hostility towards colonial encounters is often projected onto the figure of the western woman. Although complicated through its presence in western discourse, Chinese counter-discourse subverts colonial authority in travel writing by revealing that both China and the West are engaged in a process of mutual myth-making. This thesis traces this ambivalence in the works of three women travel writers: Isabella Bird, Constance Cumming and Alicia Little. It also assesses how gender structures wider travel writing and colonial discourse. The first two chapters examine women travel writers' engagement with domestic subject matter. In the following two chapters the gendered strategies employed by women to write about spaces traditionally considered to be 'masculine' are explored. The final chapter examines how, in wider travel writing about China, anxieties about the transformation of Christianity through contact with the Chinese are projected onto the western woman. Consequently, this thesis argues that the construction of femininity should be regarded as integral to the fabric of colonial discourse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available