Destination Levant: T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell’s narrative voice as gender transgression

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One of the best-known chroniclers of the Levant is undoubtedly T.E. Lawrence, whose Seven pillars of wisdom (1926) is an adventure tale, a war-time memoir and a travelogue all at once. It describes the region and its Arab inhabitants at moments admiringly and at others through an Orientalist lens. Lawrence’s narrative voice is mercurial: it’s often heroic and confident, yet sometimes full of self-doubt, rendering it curiously fragile. In opposition, Gertrude Bell’s narrative voice in The desert and the sown (1907) is assured, controlled and masculine, as Bell uses it to solidify a career as an archeologist and a regional expert. Both are calculated attempts at defying their assigned gender roles and both participate in a gender transgression, the convoluted nature of which can be explained with the theories of masochism. For Bell this means to use her narrative voice to place herself close to the seat of masculine power, while also maintaining her upper class femininity. Lawrence’s defiance erodes the conventionally masculine, heroic image the public held of him after the Arab Revolt.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-555
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Travel writing
  • Narrative voice
  • Orientalism
  • Gertrude Bell
  • T. E. Lawrence
  • Gender roles
  • Masochism
  • T.E. Lawrence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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