(Con)textual identities: British women’s autobiographical accounts of travel, India and the 1857 Mutiny

Moss, E. (2014) (Con)textual identities: British women’s autobiographical accounts of travel, India and the 1857 Mutiny. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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This dissertation analyses autobiographical writings by twelve British women who resided in India during the 1857 Mutiny: Katherine Bartrum, Charlotte Canning, Adelaide Case, Ruth Coopland, Caroline Dickson, Frances Duberly, Maria Germon, Georgina Harris, Julia Inglis, Matilda Ouvry, Georgina Paget and Harriet Tytler. The study contends that through exposure to travel, settlement and war, the writers use diaries, journals, letters and memoirs as a framework to construct (con)textual identities: textual personas that are strongly marked by context. By scrutinising two elements: self and place, the discussion determines that voyages, relocation and war induce a textual restructuring of the self that reflects a conflict between remaining womanly whilst simultaneously appearing new and exceptional. By denying the weaker parts of female identity, elevating the status of existing female functions and assuming unwomanly roles the writers challenge the boundaries of mid-Victorian femininity.

Chapter One examines the origins of the writings and interrogates the relationship between the sea-voyage and identity, asserting that travel triggers the commencement of new personas. Chapter Two discusses settlement in India, revealing that physical displacement evokes a modification of gendered and national identity. Chapter Three argues that the beginning of war generates paradoxical portrayals of the self, from fearful victim to heroic participant. Chapter Four determines that the main months of the Mutiny prompt the ultimate textual collapse of conventional womanly functions, through the advent of masculine and militaristic personalities. Chapter five examines the aftermath of the rebellion. It contends that post-war personas reveal a multitude of anxieties and that publication provides one final challenging context.

Ultimately, the dissertation contends that travel, India and the Mutiny provide new contexts for twelve women to interrogate the parameters of feminine identity in autobiographical personas that as a result of their transient nature are (con)textual identities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia > DS0401 India (Bharat) > DS0433 History
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2015 13:20
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 10:15
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/13509

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00