Writing and Traveling in Colonial Algeria after Isabelle Eberhardt: Henriette Celarié’s French (Cross) Dressing

Laura Loth, Rhodes College
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring 2017), 75-98

In the years following her death in 1904, explorer Isabelle Eberhardt became an iconic figure for a number of groups: Orientalism-infused Paris and its lesbian community; subsequent French women writer-travelers in Algeria; and nostalgic male writers drawn to the mystery of Eberhardt’s enigmatic sexuality and gender identity. However, the same ambiguity that makes Eberhardt’s legend so engaging also generates an image that is as much a figure of paternal law as one that challenges gender norms for women in the space of a “new” France in colonial Algeria. This article unravels the complex heritage of travel imagery that informed the work of French women travel writers such as Henriette Celarié, paying attention to the ways in which Celarié incorporates Eberhardt’s legend as a new element that both deconstructs and bolsters the traditional views of gender and culture circulating in women’s travel writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The allusions that Celarié makes to Eberhardt in her writings to mediate cultural- and/or gender-crossing fantasies warrant careful analysis, particularly since authors such as Celarié have played a crucial role in crystallizing Eberhardt’s mythical status in the travel genre, a status that current feminist scholars continue to critique.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]