Picaresque Travel Narratives

Daniel Royot

in The Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195187274
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Picaresque Travel Narratives

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies



This article analyzes the picaresque travel narratives, a genre peculiar to travel writing. This genre developed when travelers, temporarily removed from their familiar surroundings for work or pleasure, were prone to account for day-to-day happenings with the steady view of informing and entertaining the reader. They thus made the most of their southward or westward explorations in a style often akin to picaresque literature. The narrator was, however, no picaro recollecting sinful ups and downs in a stratified society, but a gentleman or a lady attentive to the manners of fellow colonists or Native Americans, from “savage” squaws or medicine men to uncouth country bumpkins and arrogant planters. A detailed analysis of the works of John Lawson, William Byrd II follows. As a diarist Byrd shares the planters' condescending views of the common run of humanity. The concluding part of the article analyzes Edward Kimber's works.

Keywords: picaresque; travel narratives; picaro; colonist; native Americans

Article.  11826 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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