Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Krueger, Christine L.

Second Advisor

Su, John

Third Advisor

Wadsworth, Sarah

Abstract

Homecomings argues that women's travel writing must be read as an important source of critiques of Victorian domestic ideology. I have chosen four writers-- Frances Trollope (1779-1863), Mary Carpenter (1807-1877), Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), and Fanny Kemble (1809-1893)--who represent a range of motives for travel, experiences of domesticity and travel, and revisions of domesticity in light of travel. What they share in common is that travel changed their perceptions of the homes they came from, solidified their professional purpose, increased their literary output, and emboldened them to make life choices outside of the norms of Victorian domesticity. These women's distinctive accounts of their travel challenges and their efforts to negotiate their countercultural desires draw our attention to the power of travel to leverage critiques of domesticity.

Using close readings of the women's travel texts, including Trollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), Carpenter's Six Months in India (1868), Nightingale's letters from the Crimea (1854-1856), and Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 1838-1839 (1864), as well as the women's journal entries and letters before and after their travel, I explore the impact of travel on the different creative goals these women brought to the domestic sphere. How did travel shape these women's authorial voices? How did authorship affect the kinds of domesticity they celebrated? And how did their perspectives as critics of domesticity affect their lifestyle choices after their homecomings?

For all of the women writers treated in Homecomings, domesticity was a malleable concept that was reshaped through the course of observation during travel, the interpretive work of writing about travel, and with the fresh perspective on home upon the homecoming. For Trollope, the home should create space for interesting conversation and genuine connection with other thinkers. For Carpenter, the home should primarily support education and social activism. For Nightingale, homemaking was to preserve the health of the family and arrange quiet, solitary time for writing. For Kemble, the home should foster private rest, reflection, and writing between episodes of public theatrical performance.

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