University of Tasmania
whole_EberhardAdrienne1996_thesis.pdf (7.48 MB)

The evolving eye : notions of alterity in twentieth century travel writing

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posted on 2023-05-26, 22:15 authored by Eberhard, A
The changing role of the observer in twentieth century travel writing is discussed with reference to eight authors who, I argue, are of seminal importance in this field. Freya Stark's travel writing of the 1930s is anachronistic in several ways, and very representative of a late nineteenth century mode imbued with imperialistic values characteristic of earlier exploration writing. The other authors discussed are strongly affected by the fact that in addition to their travel writing, they are fiction writers. They see themselves as artists committed to expressing certain truths about human experience by a combination of acute observation with special uses of language. They move towards experiential and subjective narrative techniques which reflect the advent of modernism and postmodernism. I argue that their changing perceptions combine in various ways with new theories of the place of language in human culture, to produce a rapid evolution of the travel narrative over five decades. The result is that the travel narratives discussed here reveal intimate links with developments in fiction, literary theory, the culture of travel and society at large. Writing at a similar time to Freya Stark, Vita Sackville-West more nearly represents the modernist trend of her contemporaries, but like Stark's The Valleys of the Assassins (1936), Sackville-West's Passenger To Teheran (1926) reveals a tendency towards appropriation and an unconscious discourse of empire. In contrast to Stark and Sackville-West, D.H. Lawrence and Lawrence Durrell sought to realise personal utopias in their travels. Lawrence's Sea and Sardinia (1921) and Durrell's Bitter Lemons (1945) make far more subjective and experiential observations than the previous two texts, an approach consistent with modernist trends which reject a realist and omniscient narrative method. Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard (1979) and Robyn Davidson's Tracks (1980) emphasise this change in the perspective of the observer and develop in different directions the subjective style with its emphasis on sensory experience; their texts are deeply personal and confessional in tone. In this, both are influenced by the environmentalism and the seeking of spiritual alternatives prevalent in the 1970s. The increasingly confessional nature of travel writing since the 1920s makes it necessary to assess boundaries between travel narratives and autobiography. Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia (1977) and Peter Conrad's Down Home (1988) are both extra-ordinary examples of the travel genre. Their intertextuality reveals their conscious relationship with fictions. These authors draw heavily on the use of metaphor, seeing their destinations as metaphorical realms at the far ends of the earth rather than literal places. Chatwin in particular appears to be influenced by postcolonial and postmodern theories. At various points I draw on feminist theory which has shown up the gendered aspects of travel writing. My argument contends finally that the role of the observer in travel writing has been profoundly influenced by fictional modes, and by the critical discourses about that fiction since late modernism.


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Copyright 1995 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Includes bibliographical references (leaves [128]-136). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1996

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