This essay examines the differing contexts and modes of encounter with Islamic culture in the travel writing of two contrasting women, the Prussian Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn and the Austrian Maria Schuber: both travelled to and wrote from the Middle East in the 1830s and 1840s and published their letters as collections. The encounters both women had with Islam were conditioned, at least in part, by their respective stance on religion, issues of gender and social class, and by the obligations of patronage and the expectations of distinct readerships. Whilst both women can be seen to write about Islam as a religion and culture defined by its difference to Christianity, both can also be seen in differing ways and to differing extents to represent Islam and Muslims as simultaneously belonging to a universal and inclusive notion of humanity and human religion. Thus, without embracing high philosophical discourse of Kant or Hegel, both women can be seen to demonstrate cosmopolitan impulses towards Islam, although these jostle for ascendancy with a more Eurocentric, Christian and indeed völkisch vision of the relationship between cultures
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