Women at Sea seeks to address two questions rarely posed in the ever-growing scholarly literature on travel, travel literature, and gender: Can the exploration of travel (and its genre, the travelogue) be expanded to include those traveling the social and economic periphery, the margins of colonial societies? And if so, what form do these travels and their chronicles take? The travelers in whose wake we initially followed when we envisaged this collection—pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and the heartbreaking Adèle Hugo—were marginal creatures. As pirates emerging from eighteenth-century working-class English societies, Bonny and Read cross-dressed their way into male occupations that brought them to the West Indies. As a “madwoman”—and thus not bound by the constraints of respectability and decorous observation of “the Other” characteristic of women travelers of her race and class—Adèle Hugo could travel the margins of colonial societies with deranged impunity. These women were undoubtedly travelers—but not known as writers. The stories of their adventures and misadventures, fascinating as they have proven to be, enduring as they have through the years, have been left to others to shape. Illiterate and “mad,” they are the quintessentially marginalized—silent, requiring to be taken “into custody,” and female—they most decidedly inhabited “the blank spaces bordering the written or printed area on a page.”
KeywordsBlank Space Cautionary Tale Spirit Possession Colonial Society American Reader
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