Across Oceans, Mountains, and Spaces: Sarah Bernhardt's American Tour

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Studies in Travel Writing


The final six chapters of Sarah Bernhardt's account of her early life, Ma Double Vie, are devoted to a description of her first journey to America in 1880–1. This section of her autobiography can be approached in the light of recent scholarship that seeks to identify characteristics specific to women's (and, more specifically, female performers’) life-writing and travel-writing. While, on the one hand, Bernhardt's relative restraint in passing generalising judgement on Americans may validate the theory that women are more empathetic travellers among ‘foreign’ peoples than are men, on the other hand, the way in which she casts herself as traveller in the roles of mythic hero, romantic dreamer, and outlaw tends to ally her as autobiographer and travel writer more with a putatively male than female paradigm. In fact, however, Bernhardt's America and Americans are best understood as ‘fictive structures’ that owe their origins to popular French stereotypes, but which serve their purpose within her autobiography by providing the scenery and cast for the culminating episode in the ex-post-facto ‘origin myth’ of her rise to international stardom.



Published Citation

Victoria Tietze Larson (2010) Across oceans, mountains, and spaces: Sarah Bernhardt's American tour, Studies in Travel Writing, 14:2, 159-178, DOI: 10.1080/13645141003747249