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Glenn Hooper and Tim Youngs, eds. 2004: Perspectives on Travel Writing. Aldershot: Ashgate. VIII + 200 pp.
Focusing on a broad range of geographical areas as well as on a wide array of travellers from the early modern period to the postcolonial age, the essays collected in this book, published as volume 19 in the Studies in European Cultural Transition series, cogently exemplify the diverse paths that scholarship on the literature of travel has trodden in recent years. The wealth of publications as well as the scheduled academic events regularly devoted to this field evidence that the critical study of travel writing is not only holding its ground within the vast domain of literary studies but also expanding it with more sophisticated forays into other disciplines. Specialized journals like Studies in Travel Writing and Journeys, book series such as Travel Writing Across the Disciplines, published by Peter Lang, and well-established conferences like the biannual meeting of the International Society for Travel Writing (ISTW) are but a few examples that attest to the strength and diversity of a field where much of the best criticism continues to be concerned with texts written in English. This is particularly true of the present collection of essays, which far from being merely descriptive, provides finely crafted theoretical treatments of British, Scottish, Caribbean, and Indian travel texts by some of the most active experts in this field.
The editors acknowledge early on in the Introduction that, in accordance with the series in which the book has been issued, one of the goals of this volume is to scrutinize the rhetorical strategies whereby European travel writing has 'othered' foreign cultures and in turn has been transformed by its own 'othering' processes. However, their scope clearly goes beyond that, as the diverse approaches employed by the contributors raise other issues and questions that may challenge long-held assumptions about this genre. What constitutes travel writing? Which are the most suitable tools to dissect it? What kind of interaction between disciplines does its criticism foster? Indeed, these questions have no easy answer, but the heterogeneity that travel literature and its critical practice so conspicuously display certainly indicates, as the editors suggest, that this is a complex field of study in a constant state of transition. It is no coincidence, then, that the book commences with an essay where Jan Borm faces the always problematic task of redrawing the boundaries of the subject matter. In 'Defining Travel: On the Travel Book, Travel Writing, and Terminology', he relies on a group of mainly French …