Between Painting and Writing: The Orient in Women’s Travel Writing and Sackville West’s Passenger to Teheran

Federica Frediani


This essay aims to illustrate the representations of the Orient in nineteenth- and twentieth-century women’s travel writing. In part, it focuses on the aesthetic considerations of the relationship between literature, art, and reality that are features of most travel accounts; in part, on Vita Sackville-West’s Passenger to Teheran (1927) as an eloquent and rich example of women’s travel writing and of the difficulty inherent in approaching and portraying the Orient. Facing the limits of language and a lack of words, writer-travellers draw upon the tools of painting, often making use of meta-literary references.

Sackville-West illustrates the difficulty of recalling and describing accurately the places one has known and seen in the past. She introduces her book with a meta-textual reflection on the fundamental issues regarding the relationship between art and reality, while simultaneously posing innovative and unconventional questions about the characteristics and the value of travel literature.


Representations; Travel Writing; Orient; Art; Sackville-West

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