chapter  3
“This is another world”
Travel narratives, women and the construction of tropical landscape
Pages 34

Moving on from early representations of white women in the West Indies, I turn now to a central concern of this book: how such women represented the place. How did women writers see the West Indies, how did they feel about what they saw, and how did they tell it? In particular, how did they represent the place within a specific kind of narrative, that of the travelogue? Of course, in naming the genre I risk falling at the first hurdle, as travel writing is a notoriously tricky genre. A few quotations indicate the difficulty of defining the category. For Percy Adams, noting its ties with history, geography and the evolving novel, “[t]he literature of travel is gigantic; it has a thousand forms and faces” (1983: 281). As narrative genre, it eludes categorization to the point where Adams is forced to “define it by negatives” (279): so that the “recit de voyage” (his preferred term) is not just a firstperson journal or diary, is not only in prose, is not just a set of notes jotted down by the traveler, is not simply an objective report of people and places seen (it has a subjective component), is not only present-tense “observation” but switches back and forth in time with interpolations of all kinds, and so on and on. In short, for Adams, this is not “a literary genre with a fixed definition any more than the novel is” (282). Pratt would seem to agree, since her study aims “not to circumscribe travel writing as a genre but to suggest its heterogeneity and its interactions with other kinds of expression” (1992: 11). Reviewing a recent crop of representative critical studies, Glenn Hooper reiterates the constantly evolving, hybrid, volatile nature of the narratives grouped within under this head (2001: 57).