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Title: Travelling to a martyrdom : the voyages and travels genre and the romantic imagination
Author: Thompson, Carl Edward
ISNI:       0000 0001 2122 1601
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis explores the influence of the voluminous travel literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries on the imagination of Romantic writers such as Wordsworth and Byron, with particular reference to the theme of suffering in travel. It examines the ways in which Romantic travel, and Romantic writings about travel, are often 'scripted' by a body of prior travel literature which today is largely overlooked. The travel texts in question all foreground the elements of danger and discomfort in the travelling experience, and the thesis begins by arguing that an interest in the traveller's misadventures was an integral part of the appeal of travel writing in this period, constituting almost a mode or sub-genre within Voyages and Travels. Taking one strand of this literature of 'misadventure', the narrative of shipwreck, mutiny and other maritime misadventures, Chapter 1 explores the different rhetorical strategies used by writers to recount the sufferings of travellers. Accounts by John Newton, William Dampier, John Byron, George Shelvocke and others illustrate, broadly, a shift from Providentialism to sentimentalism in the handling of misadventure; they illustrate also the various philosophical, theological and political issues which are involved for any reader trying to make sense of the sufferings described. Chapter 2 then considers how these conventions of misadventure are borrowed by another sub-genre of Voyages and Travels, the exploration narrative. Using the accounts of James Cook, John Ross, Edward Parry, James Bruce and Mungo Park, the chapter argues that in being thus exploited by explorers, a further layer of political significance - touching on matters of empire and modernity attaches itself to the idea of suffering in travel. Chapters 1 and 2 illuminate positive stimuli to the Romantic interest in misadventure, showing how suffering in travel could be regarded as signifying, variously, divine election, authenticity, moral worth, political protest, and much else besides. Chapter 3 is short contextual chapter which suggests that there was also a negative stimulus to the Romantic taste, for misadventure, in the form of a rapidly growing, diversifying tourism. Focussing especially on the picturesque tourist delineated by William Gilpin, and the classical Grand Tourist influenced by Joseph Addison, it suggests that Romantic writers and travellers prized discomfort and danger in travel not only for its own sake, but also because it served to distinguish them from other types of recreational traveller. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss Wordsworth and Byron respectively, showing how the conventions and attitudes explored in Chapters 1 and 2, and the use of travel as a mode of social distinction explored in Chapter 3, play out in both the writings and the actual travels of these two major Romantic figures. Both men present themselves as misadventurers, and borrow rhetorical strategies from the earlier travel literature to do so. At the same time, Wordsworth and Byron each borrow different elements from the earlier texts, or make a different inflection of the same inherited conventions. Exploring these differences, and referring to a range of texts notably the Salisbury Plain poems, The Borderers and the 'Analogy Passage' of The Prelude for Wordsworth, and Childe Harold, Don Juan Canto 2 and The Island for Byron chapters 4 and 5 articulate the very different political, philosophical and aesthetic points being made by Wordsworth and Byron as they pose, both on the page and in actuality, as suffering travellers.
Supervisor: Raine, C. A.; Sutherland, K. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Romanticism ; Travelers' writings ; Voyages and travels