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The Travellee's Eye: Reading European Travel Writing, 1750-1850

Bracewell, W; (2015) The Travellee's Eye: Reading European Travel Writing, 1750-1850. In: Kuehn, J and Smethurst, P, (eds.) New Directions in Travel Writing Studies. (pp. 215-227). Springer: Cham, Switzerland. Green open access

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How did Europeans read and respond to foreign travel writing about their societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? The importance of the genre in shaping its readers’ views of the world is often assumed. The problem, as usual with the history of reading, is one of evidence for travel writing’s wider influence. As one scholar has memorably phrased it: ‘reading is not eating’.1 Consuming books is not the same as consuming food: we cannot assume that travellers’ perceptions were shared by those who read their accounts. This has not prevented conclusions being drawn about the importance of the genre for a home readership’s knowledge about the world, and ideas about their place in it, for instance in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, where travel writing is credited both with fostering free thinking and with confirming a smug ethnocentricity.2 Evidence for direct influence is, however, scant, even where travel writing’s place in reading patterns can be mapped.3 Travel writing of the same period is also attributed key significance in other European societies, where the ‘gaze of the other’, apprehended through foreign accounts, is credited with shaping collective identities and national ideologies. Here, self-differentiation was supposedly spurred by the alterity attributed to these societies by travellers from Europe’s North-West, while the vernacular reiteration of tropes of backwardness or inferiority is taken as evidence of the internalization of travellers’ characterizations.

Type: Book chapter
Title: The Travellee's Eye: Reading European Travel Writing, 1750-1850
ISBN-13: 9781349567676
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1057/9781137457257_14
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137457257_14
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475166
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