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Crossing Borders

The Interrelation of Fact and Fiction in Historical Works, Travel Tales, Autobiography and Reportage


Maureen A. Ramsden

In the twentieth century, the boundaries between different literary genres started to be questioned, raising a discussion about the various narrative modes of factual and fictional discourses.
Moving on from the limited traditional studies of genre definitions, this book argues that the borders between these two types of discourse depend on complex issues of epistemology, literary traditions and social and political constraints. This study attempts a systematic and specific analysis of how literary works, and in particular documentary ones, where the borders are more difficult to define, can be classified as factual or fictional. The book deals with several areas of discourse, including history, travel tales, autobiography and reportage, and opens up perspectives on the very different ways in which documentary works make use of the inescapable presence of both factual and fictional elements.
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Chapter 4 - Fact and Fiction in the Travel Tale


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Fact and Fiction in the Travel Tale1

The Popularity of the Genre in the Eighteenth Century

The factual travel tale, which had its origins in antiquity, had reappeared in Europe in the sixteenth century as a result of the interest occasioned by the opening up of new frontiers. Yet even in the eighteenth century, the age of rationalism, there was a very large variety of travel tales, ranging from accounts by actual travellers claiming to be factual, to works of fantasy claiming to be true to a higher reality. The genre developed significantly during this time and the boundaries between factual and fictional changed at different discursive levels as this chapter will show. This led Jean-Michel Racault to comment:

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