Travelling in Time and Space in Literature in English
Edited By Liliana Sikorska
The Unknown Mother: Thanatourism and metempsychotic remembrance after World War I: Tony Seaton, MacAnally Professor of Travel History and Behaviour, Centre for Tourism Policy Studies, University of Limerick, Ireland
Tony Seaton, MacAnally Professor of Travel History and Behaviour, Centre for Tourism Policy Studies, University of Limerick, Ireland
Though the combat traumas of soldiers in the Great War (1914-1918) have received wide literary coverage, those of the bereaved, and the rituals of popular remembrance in which many engaged when the War ended, have received much less. These included visits by British people to the battlefields of France and Flanders, and the military cemeteries established by the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC). Among them were: families; comrades of the fallen; school parties; scout groups; and package tourists travelling with Thomas Cook (Lloyd 1998). Though collective descriptions of these visits survive, there are few published accounts of individual experiences and the personal meanings they held. This paper appraises an unpublished narrative, recently discovered, by the mother of a dead soldier, recording a private pilgrimage to his grave shortly after the war ended. The narrative comprises photographs with written captions. It is notable, not just for the insight it provides into specific commemorative practices, but the form in which the journey of remembrance was organised and narrated as a staged, repeat journey through landscapes associated with the soldier’s combat days, thus placing it within a genre of travel writing that has been characterised as a metempsychotic text.
I. The metempsychotic text
One of the recurrent debates about travel writing is whether it constitutes a literary genre. For reasons beyond discussion here, I believe that...
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