Travel Literature

Barbara L. Packer

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Travel Literature

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  • Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)



This article explains the approach of the Transcendentalists towards travel and travel literature. Those who wrote about traveling and travel literature often disparaged both. Ralph Waldo Emerson even called traveling “a fool's paradise”. However the article says that despite giving disparaging remarks most of them loved travel literature, cited it frequently in their own writings. The article also mentions the reason for this double standard of the Transcendentalists on both these topics. Travel literature provided an escape from New England's provincial orderliness. Its stories of hardships endured and dangers overcome offered agreeable examples of stoicism or at least pluck. The glimpses they provided into alien societies presented vantage points from which to view America's shortcomings. Most of the Transcendentalists became travelers in pursuit of education, health, or lecturing income; they recorded their impressions in letters, journals, memoirs, and poems. Some of them even published travel narratives.

Keywords: travel literature; travel narrative; New England; river trip

Article.  6412 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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