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


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Eberhard, A 1995 , 'The evolving eye : notions of alterity in twentieth century travel writing', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Eberhard, A
Keywords: English prose literature, Australian prose literature, American prose literature, Travel in literature, Travelers' writings, English, Travelers' writings, Australian, Travelers' writings, American
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves [128]-136). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1996

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