Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Kent

Second Advisor

Dr. Lucy Chester

Third Advisor

Dr. Matthew Gerber

Abstract

Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters contain commentary on feminine beauty within an orientalist context, which reflects transimperial networks of contact and communication during the early modern period. Lady Mary was uniquely situated at the nexus of empire, with privileged access to both the public political and privately feminine spaces of the British, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires. Her literary accounts of feminine beauty and the broader theme of Orientalism reflect the European geopolitical situation and the bigger question of transimperial systems of exchange that shaped modern Europe. In narrating the women of the Ottoman court, Montagu’s literary account of feminine beauty allows her to be both a part of and apart from this exchange of empires that the Turkish Embassy Letters is broadly concerned with in a historically symbolic sense. In understanding how and why she saw beauty in the women of other nations, one can begin to comprehend historical and imperial conceptions of cultural value across transimperial networks of exchange.

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