By Justin D Edwards, Rune Graulund (eds.)
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Additional resources for Postcolonial Travel Writing: Critical Explorations
Pratt calls this process ‘transculturation’: the reciprocal but unequal exchange between Europe and its colonies. The story of global integration that emerges from such travel narratives is a world history defined in European terms that provides ‘multiple ways of legitimizing and familiarizing the process of European expansion’ (Pratt, 2001: 150). At the same time, such narratives are themselves made possible by colonialism which, as Rob Nixon puts it, enabled Victorian travel writers to write with ‘the supreme imperial confidence that came, quite literally, from being on top of the world’ (1992: 51).
Elsewhere Harry Liebersohn takes issue with Pratt’s description of Humboldt as ‘a member of a national elite’ in an era when there was no German nation-state. He also takes her to task for locating the scientist’s studies at Frieburg’s School of Mines rather than in the Bergakademie Freiburg, where Humboldt registered as a student in 1791 (see Liebersohn, 1996: 624). 4. Comparing it to a synonymous concept captured visually in René Magritte’s famous 1933 painting La condition humaine, Dubow proposes that: ‘the picturesque enacts nothing less than the notion of present sight as “seeing through” a surrounding referent: a view of nature recognised via a background stock of perceptual knowledge’ (Dubow: 96).
In the nineteenth century the invented story was used to do things that other literary forms – the poem, the essay – couldn’t easily do: to give news about a changing society, to describe mental states. I find it strange that the travel form – in the beginning so far away from my own instincts – should have taken me back there, to look for the story; though it would have undone the point of the book if the narratives were falsified or forced. There are complexities enough in these stories. They are the point of the book; the reader should not look for ‘conclusions’.