The Seduction of Sarah: Travel Memoirs and Intercultural Learning

Barbara Elizabeth Hanna
Juliana de Nooy


The paper explores the nexus between intercultural storytelling and intercultural learning. Noting the wide appeal of the travel memoir set in France, it takes as a case study a book that, while positioned within that genre, attempts to shift some predictable patterns: Sarah Turnbull’s best-selling Almost French. Analysis shows that the book in fact participates in a subtle play of genres, whereby the lure of the travel memoir is used to entice readers towards a position where they read the book as a guide to French culture. The particular form of hybridity attempted is, however, a delicate enterprise, as the reception of the book demonstrates, in that the intercultural lessons on offer risk being overshadowed by the expectations readers bring to the genre of the travel memoir. The paper examines the competing seductions operating throughout the text and relates the conditions for taking up the opportunity for intercultural learning to questions of genre. It offers a pedagogical uptake of the textual analysis, thus bridging disciplines in a way that mirrors Turnbull’s bridging of genres.


intercultural; narrative; genre; travel memoir; French culture; Sarah Turnbull

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