Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel-Writing, 1770-1840: From an Antique Land

Paperback | February 22, 2005

byNigel Leask

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The decades between 1770 and 1840 are rich in exotic accounts of the ruin-strewn landscapes of Ethiopia, Egypt, India, and Mexico. Yet it is a field which has been neglected by scholars and which - unjustifiably - remains outside the literary canon. In this pioneering book, Nigel Leask studiesthe Romantic obsession with these 'antique lands', drawing generously on a wide range of eighteenth and nineteenth-century travel books, as well as on recent scholarship in literature, history, geography, and anthropology. Viewing the texts primarily as literary works rather than 'transparent'adventure stories or documentary sources, he sets out to challenge the tendency in modern academic work to overemphasize the authoritative character of colonial discourse. Instead, he addresses the relationship between narrative, aesthetics, and colonialism through the unstable discourse ofantiquarianism, exploring the effects of problems of credit worthiness, and the nebulous epistemological claims of 'curiosity' (a leitmotif of the accounts studied here), on the contemporary status of travel writing.Attentive to the often divergent idioms of elite and popular exoticism, Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing plots the transformation of the travelogue through the period, as the baroque particularism of curiosity was challenged by picturesque aesthetics, systematic 'geographicalnarrative', and the emergence of a 'transcendental self' axiomatic to Romantic culture. In so doing it offers an important reformulation of the relations between literature, aesthetics, and empire in the late Enlightenment and Romantic periods.

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The decades between 1770 and 1840 are rich in exotic accounts of the ruin-strewn landscapes of Ethiopia, Egypt, India, and Mexico. Yet it is a field which has been neglected by scholars and which - unjustifiably - remains outside the literary canon. In this pioneering book, Nigel Leask studiesthe Romantic obsession with these 'antique ...

Nigel Leask is at Lecturer in the English Faculty, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:348 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.71 inPublished:February 22, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199269300

ISBN - 13:9780199269303

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Practices and Narratives of Romantic Travel1. Cycles of Accumulation, Curiosity, and Temporal Exchange2. Curious Narratives and the Problem of Credit: James Bruce's 'Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile'3. 'Young Menmon' and Romantic Egyptomania4. Indian Travel Writing and the Imperial Picturesque5. Domesticating Distance: Three Women Travel Writers in British India6. Alexander von Humboldt and the Romantic Imagination of AmericaConclusion: William Bullock's Mexico and the Reassertion of Popular CuriosityBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`Leask ranges more widely than any of his predecessors . . . Leask admirably rises to the challenge by widening his scrutiny beyond works composed in English . . . an admirable and original synthesis of much rarely explored travel material.'Studies in Travel Writing