© 2017

Women, Travel, and Science in Nineteenth-Century Americas

The Politics of Observation


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Nina Gerassi-Navarro
    Pages 1-26
  3. Nina Gerassi-Navarro
    Pages 27-67
  4. Nina Gerassi-Navarro
    Pages 231-234
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 235-276

About this book


This book offers a new and insightful look at the interconnections between the United States, Brazil and Mexico during the nineteenth century. Gerassi-Navarro brings together U.S. and Latin American Studies with her analysis of the travel narratives of Frances Calderón de la Barca and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. Inspired by the writings of Alexander von Humboldt these women, in their travels, expand his views on the tropics to include a social dimension to their observations on nature, culture, race, and progress in Brazil and Mexico. Highlighting the role of women as a new kind of observer as well as the complexity of connections between the United States and Latin America, Gerassi-Navarro interweaves science, politics, and aesthetics in new transnational frameworks.


Women and Nineteenth-Century Travel Narratives Alexander von Humboldt Frances Calderón de la Barca Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Science and Nineteenth-Century Travel Narratives Nineteenth-Century Travel Narratives about Mexico Nineteenth-Century Travel Narratives about Brazil Latin American literature Latin American women writers

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Romance LanguagesTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

About the authors

Nina Gerassi-Navarro teaches Latin American Literature and Culture at Tufts University, where she is also Director of the Latin American Studies Program. She has written extensively on nation building, women, outlaws, and visual culture.  Her books include Pirate Novels: Metaphors of Nation Building (1999) and the co-edited volume, Otros estudios transatlánticos: Lecturas desde lo latinoamericano (2009).

Bibliographic information


“This groundbreaking book remaps the field of American Studies as a hemispheric, indeed, a transnational endeavor, from the vantage of a distinguished Latin Americanist.  Women, Travel, and Science in Nineteenth-Century Americas models new ways of understanding cross-cultural exchange by exploring 19th century antecedents in the fascinating narratives of women travelers who traversed geographic and epistemological borders in multiple directions. Their proximity and distance from the centers of power yielded unique insights into the social, natural, and political worlds they came from and visited.  Gerassi-Navarro’s  richly-layered interdisciplinary approach reveals how travel writing shaped the production of scientific knowledge, the literary and visual arts, and the complex meanings of race and gender during a tumultuous period of national consolidation and fracturing across continents.” (Amy Kaplan, Edward W. Kane Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA)

“This fascinating book follows two spirited women who accompanied their husbands from Boston to Mexico (Frances Calderón de la Barca) and Brazil (Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz). Although their travel narratives are primarly known for their perceptive observations of daily life, Gerassi-Navarro shows that they are much more than that. Crossing geographical and disciplinary boundaries, she provides fresh insights into Life in Mexico (1843) and A Journey in Brazil (1868). Paying close attention to the contradictions and ambiguities of these texts as well as to the transnational historical contexts that framed them, she reveals how these women, despite their alleged marginalization from science and politics, used their writing to participate in the public debates of their day.” (Silvia Marina Arrom, Professor Emerita of History, Brandeis University, USA)