The Representation of Francoist Spain by Two British Women Travel Writers

By Mulligan, Maureen | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, December 2016 | Go to article overview

The Representation of Francoist Spain by Two British Women Travel Writers


Mulligan, Maureen, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


1.Introduction

This article offers a discussion of two books by British women which describe travels in Spain during the post-war period, that is, during the dictatorship of General Franco from 1939 to 1975. The authors and books referred to are Rose Macaulay's Fabled Shore: From the Pyrenees to Portugal (1949) and Penelope Chetwode's Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia (1963). The aim is to analyse how the Spanish culture and society of the time are represented in these texts, and to what extent the authors engage with questions of the ethics of travel to Spain in this period. Two different forms of travel--by car, and by horse--also influence the way the travellers can connect with local people; and the individual's interest in Spain as a historical site, or as a timeless escape from industrial northern Europe, similarly affect the focus of the accounts. The global politics of travel writing, and the distinction between colonial and cosmopolitan travel writers, are important elements in our understanding of the way a foreign culture is articulated for the home market. Women's travel writing also has its own discursive history which we consider briefly. In conclusion, texts involve common discursive and linguistic strategies which have to negotiate the specificity of an individual's travels in a particular time and place.

When we read these texts with the hindsight of a historical perspective, inevitably we ask why these women chose to come to Spain, to what extent they were aware of the political situation in the country and whether they adopted a political or ethical stance towards the society they visited. Similarly, it is important to establish whether they ever felt uneasy about travelling in a country affected by war, poverty, division and dictatorship. There is a hierarchy of mobility implicit in travel writing which most commonly deals with wealthy people travelling from democracies to poorer, often undemocratic societies whose members do not have freedom of movement or resources to travel: this leads us to ask how this inequality of movement is dealt with by the traveller. At the same time, each individual traveller has her own personal agenda, which influences her choice of itinerary, her mode of travel, her interests and blind spots, her aims and priorities. From a literary perspective, we can analyse the way the language and style they use to describe the experience reflect the complex questions that must have arisen in the course of the journey. We ask how people choose to travel to certain countries at certain times, what they know about the place in advance of travelling, how they represent it through their writing, and how readers interpret their texts. Some attempt will be made to consider these questions through a close reading of their work and a juxtaposition of the two very different texts, along with a brief revision of some of the main historical and generic aspects of women's travel writing in its development from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. This article aims to combine a discussion of the ethics of the choice of destination in a politicised world with a consideration of the discursive nature of representation always present in travel writing, by looking at a specific place and time, and focusing on travel writing written by women about this destination. To do so, we will refer to work by Said, Pratt, Buzard, Lisle, Fowler and Forsdick, Smith, Holland and Huggan, and others.

2. Ethical perspectives on travel

A series of questions arises about these texts when we read them in the light of a geopolitical and ethical perspective which focuses on the inequality of wealth that lies behind much recent tourism. According to Carrigan (2011),

[t]he effects of globalized mass tourism over the last half a century have been both striking and troubling. Many forms of post-World War II tourism exploit uneven distributions of wealth, remapping colonial travel patterns as increasing numbers of citizens from rich nations choose to visit much poorer states. …

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