"Tainted" moves: Subjects of contemporary travel literatures
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The research for my thesis falls within the relatively fresh field of travel writing literary criticism, an area of increasing interest as growing global trends of tourism, migration, exile and "nomadic" movements of people displace the models of habitation and identity central to many traditions of literature. Principally, I seek to address three major questions through this study: to search for what the specific subjects of travel are; to examine how they are constructed; and to discuss their significance in the contemporary context most relevant to each. Recently, the field of travel writing has become an increasingly important focal point for a range of competing and interconnected disciplines. Why have the directions of those questioning converged on what many still consider to be a rather second-rate, middle-brow class within literature? One answer is that travel writings are now considered a rich source for analysing key aspects of the representation of the world. A critical consideration of the various "modes" of travel writing reveals tIns discursive site as a vibrant arena for ideological interpolation, where neo-imperial interests and tastes are juxtaposed, complicated and challenged in divergent fields of "postcoloniality". This thesis looks at both theory and practice, responding to a selection of postmodern and cultural critical sources and primary literary texts, chiefly of the writings of Paul Theroux, Oliver Sacks and Jonathan Raban, Bruce Chatwin, Edward Said, Salman Rushdie, and Michael Ondaatje. My aim is to construct a framework of critical practice, using these texts, that attempts to explain the function and place of different strands of contemporary travel writing within literary, geographical, historical, and cultural contexts. I pay particular attention to the array of narrative styles and impulses available (noting the receptive biases of realistic, "ethnographic" writing and imaginative fictional journeys and intentional differences that are propelled by the various types of displacement) in order to deconstruct the processes of ideology at work in the production and reception of texts from different (and sometimes shifting) political locations. I seek to unravel some of the differentiated functions and places of contemporary travel writing within historically and culturally "tainted" contexts, in the Pacific, Australia, the Middle East and on an international scale, in terms of key narrative and representational traits, in order to postulate the political and cultural capital garnered from this popular form of writing. Hence, I have linked particular "modes" of displacement with key texts in order to re-examine the effective meaning of terminologies of displacement, and to effectively analyze traits of cultural imperialism embedded in new narrative practices of the tourist, nomad, exile and migrant. In addition, my focus addresses specific contemporary contexts that converge with the representation of both displacement and placement, including interventions into postcolonial and globalisation studies, the history of subjectivity, and literary studies to develop key thematic connections with concerns such as subjectivity, the relationship of globalisation to "home" and the correlating subjects of exile, diaspora, migration, dislocation and alienation.