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Journeys in Search of Travel Writing: A critical-creative interrogation of contemporary travel writing as a genre
thesisposted on 08.07.2020, 09:04 by Timothy A. Hannigan
This thesis interrogates ethical issues in contemporary travel writing, drawing its critical underpinning from the body of postcolonial scholarship on the genre which has emerged since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978). The thesis focuses on representations of alterity and the travellee, and the issue of fictionalisation in notionally nonfictional texts. It is delivered as a first-person narrative, using the literary form of travel writing itself to discuss its findings. Scholarly research and creative practice are bound together in a single critical-creative text.
The central research presented here consists of a series of qualitative interviews with prominent travel writers and others associated with the genre: Philip Marsden, Nicholas Jubber, Colin Thubron, Nick Danziger, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Patrick Barkham, Dervla Murphy, Rory MacLean, Sara Wheeler, Samanth Subramanian, William Dalrymple, Monisha Rajesh and Kapka Kassabova; the publisher Barnaby Rogerson, the scholar Carl Thompson and a group of readers of travel writing. There are also examinations of the archives of two canonical figures of twentieth-century British travel writing – Wilfred Thesiger and Patrick Leigh Fermor – with a focus on the layered production and resultant elements of fictionalisation in their major works; and a survey of nineteenth-century travel writing about Cornwall with a focus on questions of travellee reception.
The first-person narrative form of the thesis, meanwhile, allows for a self-reflexive approach, and an immediate testing of the generic limitations of travel writing in direct response to the issues raised in the interviews and archival studies. The aim here is to investigate travel writing’s capacity for internal critique, and at the same time to foreground the subjective and transformative nature of scholarly research.