"You can't get there from here": Identity, autobiography, and self-reflection in the travel writings of Edith Wharton, Emma Hart Willard, and Ida Tarbell in France
Game Pritchard, Lisa
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From the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, travel writing, particularly when the traveler was visiting Europe, was a popular genre in the United States. This thesis focuses on the role that autobiography plays in travel writing, specifically women's travel writing, during a portion of that time period. To explore the connection between autobiography and travel writing, I have chosen to focus on the accounts of three women sojourning in France between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Edith Wharton, Emma Hart Willard, and Ida Tarbell all journey to France at different times with varying agendas yet their travel writing exhibits similar characteristics, providing varying situations but comparable experiences. During their stays in Europe, France serves as a liminal space, an environment that is strangely reminiscent of their lives back in the United States, yet simultaneously, noticeably unfamiliar. This process of defamiliarization the travelers experience in France forces them to turn inward in an attempt to (re-)orient themselves. As a result, they examine the underpinnings of their own identities in ways that likely would not have occurred without having traveled around France. These concurrent processes of introspection and examination of France's social mores causes the Wharton, Willard, and Tarbell to not only reflect upon their own experiences but also their individual identities in their writings. Taking this process of defamiliarization and self-reflection into account, it is evident that autobiography and travel writing are inexorably joined and that, furthermore, in the case of travel writing, the author and the work cannot be separated.