Saturday 28 March 2015

Seasickness haha - and gender

'Hilarious' Seasickness: comic postcard representations of mobility's crucial cost, 1910-1960.

This is the title of a seminar I'll be giving for Liverpool University's Centre for Port and Maritime History.

It's on Wednesday 15 April 2015 at 5-6.30pm in Committee Room 5 in the Management School, Chatham Street, L69 7ZH. Contact +44 (0)151 795 3000 Email:

Seasickness is, or was, the elephant in the room for voyagers in the days before stable ships and effective motion sickness cures.
Seaside humour-type postcards were one of the few areas where the subject was raised.
A genre of popular art as well as text message-like communication, these cards were in a sense anti-cruise brochures. They aired a silenced aspect of the new phenomenon, recreational sea travel, i.e. sometimes unspeakable physical unease.
In a highly illustrated presentation I explore these postcards as a commercially-mediated way of discussing matter out of place: illness where there was supposed to be consumer pleasure at mobility.

Although I won't be focusing on gender, I started investigating this subject because it was gendered.
And I will be briefly discussing gendered representation in the postcards.

For example we see:
~ men, not women, as the main sufferers
~ female partners as breezy and blithe. They usually don't grasp that he thinks he's dying
~ no women seafarers, just non-seasick male stewards and officers
~ shared queasiness creates female-male liaisons. In other words, it's an odd chat-up opportunity.

Most cards (I collected them via eBay)weren't postally used. And almost none refer to mal-de-mer.
The one that does so most explicitly is from a woman on land., in August 1920, wishing her friend wasn't suffering like the poor chap featured in the postcard.

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