X Marks the Spot
Women Writers Map the Empire for British Children, 1790–1895

By Megan A. Norcia

A Children’s Literature Association Book Award “Honor Book”

“This is a sophisticated analysis based on original research.”

Mary Jean Corbett, author of Family Likeness: Sex, Marriage, and Incest from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf

“In addition to providing more detailed insight into the imperial worldviews promoted to nineteenth-century children, X Marks the Spot persuasively describes the agency of women writers on the front line of domestic imperialism.”

Victorian Studies

“Norcia does not try to turn her writers into outspoken feminists; rather, she readily admits their complicity in the British imperial project and often in the perpetuation of their status as second-class citizens within the Empire. Her study is a well-researched, disciplined, and frank tracing of the primer writers’ subtle—but nonetheless marked—resistance to the imperialist narrative of masculine, British power within the very genre that sought to package it so prettily for child readers.”

Nineteenth Century Gender Studies

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.

Megan A. Norcia is an assistant professor of English at SUNY Brockport.

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Related Subjects

Literary Studies · Women’s Studies · British Literature · Victorian Studies



Retail price: $49.95, S.
Release date: Mar. 2010
304 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World


Release date: Mar. 2010
Rights: World