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Travellers, Novelists, and Gentlemen

Constructing Male Narrative Personae in British Travel Books, from the Beginnings to the Second World War

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Grzegorz Moroz

Travel writing studies have been focused mostly on women travel writers and on representations of the world and the other. This book adopts a novel perspective which diachronically combines the issues of genre and gender. The author postulates that the genre of the travel book in the British literary tradition was established and developed in the eighteenth century alongside the novel and the autobiography. He cogently presents the developments in earlier non-fictional travel narratives in order to expose both their similarities and fundamental differences from modern travel books. Underlying his research is the conviction that the narrative personae of travel books have always been placed in the foreground because of the key role of sentimental discourse and celebrity culture. This book competently analyses the main trends, techniques and constraints in the process of constructing male narrative personae in British travel books written between 1755 and 1939.

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Introduction

Extract

The present study is an attempt to go against the grain of two main trends that may be discerned in the burgeoning field of travel writing studies, ever since this discipline was established more than two decades ago: a focus on the analysis of travel narratives written by women and on the analysis of the ways in which travel writers have represented the world and the other. The focus in this book, as its main title—Constructing Male Narrative Personae in British Travel Books—indicates, is on travel books written by men and on the development of the ways in which these men have constructed their narrative personae. In the present study, I support Jan Borm’s contention that travel writing is not currently acknowledged as a genre, but a group of texts—both fictional and non-fictional—with travel as their main theme; this view is strengthened by Boena Witosz’s claim that these texts are related through “family resemblance.” I also argue—again following Jan Borm—that the travel book (alternatively called the “travelogue”) should be treated as a distinct literary genre and that its three key features include: the non-fictional dominant, the reader’s assumption that the journeys described have taken place in reality, and the identity of the author, narrator and principal character. In this study I apply Borm’s taxonomy diachronically and argue that the birth of the new genre of travel book should be located in the middle of the eighteenth century in such texts as Henry Fielding’s Journal...

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