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Grant number like: FA-55283-10

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Janet L. Beizer
President and Fellows of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA 02138-3800)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$37,800 (approved)
$33,600 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2010 – 8/31/2010

Alexandra David-Neel and the Culture of Fugue in France (1870-1940)

My project explores the medical-cultural phenomenon of compulsive travel, fugue, in late 19th and early 20th-century France, when symptoms reached epidemic proportions and crystallized in a diagnosis that became a pathological, political and literary force. The fugueur or compulsive traveler is conventionally conceptualized in the masculine and fugue staked off as male malady opposed to female-marked hysteria. But there were women in this period that traveled compulsively. I focus on those who wrote about travel and the irresistible forces that drove them to depart from legitimate female space, and construct a case study of one such traveler, Alexandra David-Neel. More broadly, I survey the gendered terrain of the fugue diagnosis against the background scene of mobility in France, including evolving transportation, tourism, geography and cartography. This interdisciplinary project aims to contribute to literature and travel writing, biography, gender, and medical-cultural studies.