Reading Glimpses of Life and Manners: A Textual Practice

Farah Ghaderi, Wan Roselezam Wan Yahya


Through a textual scrutiny of Mary Sheil’s Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, this paper aims to examine the ways she represents the Persian women in her travel narrative.  Nineteenth century, as the high noon of British imperialism, saw the emergence of a huge corpus of colonial travel literature on Persia purported to be eye-witness accounts of the journeys made by their writers. Likewise, Mary Sheil claims that her narrative is an innocent transcription of the life and manners in Persia. However, a close analysis of her text reveals that the representations of women are informed by circulating discourses of the time in keeping with British imperialist ideologies. Further, it exposes the power structure embedded in Sheil’s scripting of Persian women. Far from being a monolithic picture, the text presents an ambivalent tableau of Persian women as objects of both derision and admiration. For its analytical framework, this study follows three successive readings focusing on the representation of the Persian women. The interpretation of the passages is guided by theories from Edward Said and Homi K. Bhabha among others.



Nineteenth-century travel writing; colonial discourse; Persian women; ambivalence; representation

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