A Self-Reflexive Journey: Imagining Identity in the Eighteenth-Century Travel Narrative
A Self-Reflexive Journey examines real-life, published accounts of popular
eighteenth-century travelers as a novel form of creative autobiography in which lived experience is translated as narrative experiment. As a subset of life-writing, the travelogue provides the occasion for authors to self-fashion their identities as traveling subjects and attempt to reconcile their personal and national identities with constant exposure to foreign customs and modes of thought. I argue that figurative and literal landscapes in eighteenth-century travel accounts function as a crucial site for the mediation of narrative identity, enabling the internal contestations of the evolving self to be enacted upon a global stage.
The introduction elaborates upon the critical approach of the dissertation and
discusses how Joseph Addison’s meditation on Virgilian poetical “landskips” in Remarks on Italy (1705) anticipates his eponymous persona in The Spectator (1711-1712) by reconciling the literary past with the literal present. Chapter two examines the letters Lady Mary Wortley Montagu composed during her eighteenth-month sojourn to Turkey beginning in 1716, posthumously published as Turkish Embassy Letters (1763), and her correspondence relating to her residence in Italy from 1739 to 1762. I interrogate how Montagu’s depiction of Turkey as the Elysian Fields in 1717, and her recapitulation of this metaphor to describe her departure for Italy twenty-two years later, serves as a paradigm for leaving behind her former English life and identity. In the third chapter I analyze James Boswell’s use of the geographical feature of the isthmus to stand in for his intermediary identity as a post-Union Scot in An Account of Corsica (1768) and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785). The dissertation concludes by exploring Mary Wollstonecraft’s conflation of embosomed arboreal landscapes and the female breast in Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796) to politicize her identity as a mother and travel writer within the Radical context of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).