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  • Victorian Women and the Economies of Travel, Translation and Culture, 1830–1870 by Judith Johnston
  • Paisley Mann (bio)
Victorian Women and the Economies of Travel, Translation and Culture, 1830–1870 by Judith Johnston; pp. 202. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. $130.85 cloth.

A recent publication in the field of travel studies, Judith Johnston’s book builds on the work of scholars such as Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere, Sara Mills, and Sherry Simon who have drawn attention to the impact of culture and gender on linguistic translation. Indeed, Victorian Women and the Economies of Travel, Translation and Culture, 1830–1870 considers the intersections between literal travels and the figurative cultural journeys that translated travel narratives undergo; Johnston contends that “like travel, translation is another form of journey” (2), and she focuses on how British women translators and travel writers “contributed in interesting and varied ways to the development of British intellectual life and cross-cultural understanding” through both their travel narratives and their English translations of travel narratives (10). In this study, Johnston focuses on lesser-known writers and [End Page 167] translators—Sarah Austin, Mary Margaret Busk, Anna Jameson, Charlotte Guest, Jane Sinnett, and Mary Howitt—rather than on canonical figures such as George Eliot or Harriet Martineau. In the introduction, Johnston explains her decision to focus on the early Victorian period of 1830 to 1870, during which, for the publishing industry, the development of the railway and of steam technology revolutionized both travel and the circulation of print materials (5–6). Additionally, by considering “the decades leading up to the first concerted efforts by women for legal redress with regard to political standing,” Johnston suggests that her study “develop[s] an understanding of the issues with which women of intellect and ability were engaged” (4). As she states in chapter 1, early Victorian women “became increasingly participant in what might be considered a forefront publishing industry during these years” (20), and Johnston suggests that “comparisons with a generation earlier, and with their less mobile sisters, must have given certain middle-class women a sense of liberty to be themselves, to be independent, to go out into the world and report on what they saw” (31).

In many ways, chapter 1 builds upon the introduction in that it provides a further framework for the types of journeys—literal and linguistic or cultural—that Johnston will discuss in chapters 2 through 7. Here, Johnston also offers a useful overview of English national identity, travel writing, and translation during the early nineteenth century, explaining that she “locates within women’s travel writings and translations particularly, challenges to the meaning of home, to national politics, to gender politics, with sharp comparisons which explicitly reveal direct engagement with the world around them” (48). Perhaps due in part to the way in which chapter 1 acts as its own introduction to the case studies in subsequent chapters, it was at times unclear how chapter 1 advanced significantly upon the material of the introduction; however, Johnston offers helpful historical context about the nature of women’s travel writing in this period, arguing that women both “report[ed] on their contact with the domestic, everyday lives of other people in other places” and “addressed the prevailing politics of a place” (54).

The following six chapters act as individual case studies that illuminate the variety of ways in which female writers and translators of travel narratives engaged with their own British culture and with the cultures of the texts or landscapes they translated. Indeed, throughout her work, Johnston focuses less on the linguistic particularities of translation and more on how these writers translate culture and ideology; as Johnston states in the introduction, she is “far more concerned with the resultant ‘rewriting’ of a source text, than the issue of faithful equivalence” (3). Chapters 2 and 3 act as counterpoints that demonstrate how the ideologies of translators impact the translated work. In chapter 2, Johnston considers Sarah Austin’s translations of Prince Pückler-Muskau’s German-language travel narratives, suggesting that although previous critics have pointed to how Austin [End Page 168] censored Pückler-Muskau’s sexual escapades in Britain, Austin translates his critiques of...


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