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From Word to Land

Early English Reports from North America as Worldmaking Texts


Maike Bettina Kolbeck

Early English reports from North America were principal sources of knowledge for their European audience. Nevertheless, they also share central features with fictional narratives. The author analyzes how, and to what effect, «the word became land» and how language functioned in these narratives to create knowledge, history, and thus reality. Drawing on Nelson Goodman, Hayden White, and Jeffrey Kittay, this book surveys almost 50 narratives ranging geographically from Newfoundland to South Carolina and temporally from 1576 to 1700. Close readings focusing on their narrative and descriptive strategies reveal a surprising uniformity across time and space which sought to assert by rhetoric what often failed in reality.
Contents: Travel narratives: definition and literary status – Short history of travel and its narrative – Narration and description in travel narratives – Cultural and historical background – Narratives of first contacts – Narratives of exploration and first settlements.