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Richard Francis Burton

Victorian Explorer and Translator

Series:

Silvia Antosa

This volume offers a critical insight into the life and work of the controversial Victorian explorer and translator Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). Analysis focuses on his travel accounts and erotic translations, which both re-elaborated and challenged dominant Victorian discourses on race, gender and sexuality, generating controversies in the fields of anthropology, sexology and medicine. The premise of the study is that Burton entertained an ambiguous relationship with the colonial institutions: on the one hand, he pursued the colonial project, while on the other, he was an irreverent outsider who clashed with the imperial authorities. As this investigation reveals, he defied British sociocultural norms by appropriating and importing the rituals and languages of the colonial subjects. The volume examines Burton’s ‘impersonations’ of multiple masculine identities in the countries that he visited, which involved elaborate processes of both identification and dis-identification. The author argues that these impersonations enabled a series of queer encounters which broke down the barriers between imperial Self and colonised Other, and led Burton to embody several self-conscious, performative constructions of masculinity. Burton’s life and works are analysed in light of recent critical and theoretical debates.

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