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X Marks the Spot

Women Writers Map the Empire for British Children, 1790-1895

Megan A. Norcia

Publication Year: 2010

During the nineteenth century, geography primers shaped the worldviews of Britain’s ruling classes and laid the foundation for an increasingly globalized world. Written by middle-class women who mapped the world that they had neither funds nor freedom to traverse, the primers employed rhetorical tropes such as the Family of Man or discussions of food and customs in order to plot other cultures along an imperial hierarchy. Cross-disciplinary in nature, X Marks the Spot is an analysis of previously unknown material that examines the interplay between gender, imperial duty, and pedagogy. Megan A. Norcia offers an alternative map for traversing the landscape of nineteenth-century female history by reintroducing the primers into the dominant historical record. This is the first full-length study of the genre as a distinct tradition of writing produced on the fringes of professional geographic discourse before the high imperial period.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

Thanks are due first to my mentors, Pamela Gilbert and Kenneth Kidd. Thank you so much for setting such high standards, for offering me such fantastic models of the scholarly life to aspire to, and for being kind in...

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pp. 1-30

In an April 2005 New Yorker article promoting the publication of his edited rerelease of a Victorian geography primer, The Clumsiest People in Europe; or, Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World...

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The Dysfunctional "Family of Man"

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pp. 31-65

In the late eighteenth century, the impulse to catalog and classify data into tables and charts extended from the pages of encyclopedias to the specimen cases in museums to the practices of ethnographers, naturalists, and cartographers. As Michel Foucault's work has shown, the visibility...

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Place Settings at the Imperial Dinner Party

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pp. 66-106

Historians of food culture investigate how the changing landscape of the English table, marked by coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, and exotic fruits, reflected imperial expansion and trade abroad as well as changing...

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Terra Incognita

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pp. 107-146

The nineteenth-century English public had many opportunities to encounter terra incognita, and not just in gazing at an imperial map. The "unknown territory" that was brought before the viewing...

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"Prisoners in Its Spatial Matrix"

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pp. 147-189

The chapter title is derived from a remark by spatial theorist J. B. Harley, who contends that maps are a "technology of power" within which "[t]he world is disciplined. The world is normalized. We are prisoners in its spatial matrix."1 As we have seen in previous chapters, women...

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pp. 190-200

This project engages with the politics of erasure and recovery. I set out to investigate how children's geography primers can be recovered or reclaimed in order to productively rethink the roles women...


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pp. 201-238


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pp. 239-254


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pp. 255-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443538
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419076

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794698926
MUSE Marc Record: Download for X Marks the Spot

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Pembroke, Mary Sidney Herbert, ǂcCountess of, ǂd1561-1621 ǂxCriticism and interpretation.
  • Women and literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • Sex role in literature
  • Children -- Books and reading -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • National characteristics, British, in literature.
  • Geography in literature.
  • Didactic literature, English -- History and criticism.
  • Children's literature, English -- History and criticism.
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