Project Title: Travels East, West and Back Again: Researching and Writing Isabella Bird Artfully
HEI: University of Dundee
About Loretta’s Research
Isabella Bird (1831-1904) was a writer and traveller based in Scotland. Unusually for a woman at that time, she travelled extensively unaccompanied and published accounts of her journeys. I aim to explore her writing to reflect what historians might learn from her subjective approach and write a series of creative essays that addresses what is at stake in writing such ‘artful’ histories. These will also address the challenges of writing as a woman traveller in a male-centred Victorian republic of letters, asking what her life and times has to offer contemporary readers.
My project is not another biography; instead, by exploring theories of historiography, using literary techniques, and including extracts from Bird’s work, I will write a series of first-person, creative non-fiction essays, which will give voice to various narrators and provide the historical setting and ideological framework to create a series of imaginative narratives which bring different perspectives on Bird’s life and travels. My essays will explore themes such as landscape, solitariness, and creativity; truth, memory, and memorials; exoticism in travel writing; marginal voices, racism, post-colonialism, and the literary value of the epistolatory form.