Women travel writers and the language of aesthetics, 1716-1818


Women travel writers and the language of aesthetics, 1716-1818

Elizabeth A. Bohls

(Cambridge studies in romanticism, 13)

Cambridge University Press, 2004, c1995

  • : pbk

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"First paperback edition 2004"--T.p. verso

Bibliography: p. 291-305

Includes index

"Paperback re-issue"--Back cover



British readers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries eagerly consumed books of travel in an age of imperial expansion that was also the formative period of modern aesthetics. Beauty, sublimity, sensuous surfaces, and scenic views became conventions of travel writing as Britons applied familiar terms to unfamiliar places around the globe. The social logic of aesthetics, argues Elizabeth Bohls, constructed women, the labouring classes, and non-Europeans as foils against which to define the 'man of taste' as an educated, property-owning gentleman. Women writers from Mary Wortley Montagu to Mary Shelley resisted this exclusion from gentlemanly privilege, and their writings re-examine and question aesthetic conventions such as the concept of disinterested contemplation, subtly but insistently exposing its vested interests. Bohls' study expands our awareness of women's intellectual presence in Romantic literature, and suggests Romanticism's sources at the peripheries of empire rather than at its centre.


  • 1. Aesthetics and Orientalism in Mary Wortley Montagu's letters
  • 2. Janet Schaw and the aesthetics of colonialism
  • 3. Landscape aesthetics and the paradox of the female picturesque
  • 4. Helen Maria Williams' revolutionary landscapes
  • 5. Mary Wollstonecraft's anti-aesthetics
  • 6. Dorothy Wordsworth and the cultural politics of scenic tourism
  • 7. The picturesque and the female sublime in Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho
  • 8. Aesthetics, gender, and empire in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

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