Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation

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Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Imperial Eyesexplores European travel and exploration writing, in connection with European economic and political expansion since It is both a study in genre, and a critique of ideology. Pratt examines how travel books by Europeans create the domestic subject of European imperialism, and how they engage metropolitan reading publics with expansionist enterprises whose material benefits accrued mainly to the very few.

These questions are addressed through readings of particular travel accounts connected with particularhistorical transitions, from the eighteenth century to Paul Theroux: Since the publication of The Travels of Marco Polo in the early fourteenth century, European adventurers, explorers, tourists, and scientists have traversed other parts of the world and written accounts of their experiences for European audiences.

Travel Writing and Transculturation, Mary Louise Pratt studied the accounts of Europeans and European-Americans who traveled to European colonies and other non-European parts of the world from the early eighteenth century to the early Since the publication of The Travels of Marco Polo in the early fourteenth century, European adventurers, explorers, tourists, and scientists have traversed other parts of the world and written accounts of their experiences for European audiences.

Travel Writing and Transculturation, Mary Louise Pratt studied the accounts of Europeans and European-Americans who traveled to European colonies and other non-European parts of the world from the early eighteenth century to the early twenty-first century. By employing elements of literary analysis to travel writing, Pratt demonstrated how Europeans viewed imperial possessions and subjects. Northern European, bourgeois travel writers, such as Anders Sparrman, John Barrow, Alexander Von Humboldt, and Mary Kingsley, portrayed colonial and neo-colonial dominions as vulnerable, subjectable, and profitable lands and societies.

Although stylistic approaches shifted over the course of nearly years, travel writers consistently constructed an image of European ownership of the non-European world. In this image, Europe, the center of civilization, owned and rightfully controlled the barbarous periphery of the imperial world.

Ultimately, the European imperial gaze was constant and monolithic from the s to the s. The travel writing by Europeans and United States citizens in the s drew on many of the basic assumptions and images employed by travel writers of the s However, Pratt did not exclusively focus on European travel writers. Pratt explored the phenomenon of transculturation where imperial subjects selected, coopted, and transformed the image European travel writers presented of subjugated societies and cultures.

In Latin America, for example, creole, European-American elites constructed a perception of themselves that reinforced European imagery.


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Creoles identified themselves as civilized Europeans and the masses of indigenous, mixed, and African peoples in Latin America as barbarous subjects. In the decolonized, neo-imperial twentieth century, Latin American travel writers adopted European forms of travel writing; however, Latin American writers were not governed by a Eurocentric interpretation of the world.

Imperial Eyes: Studies in Travel Writing and Transculturation

Pratt not only historicized the writings of European travelers, but also incorporated literary analysis to her study. For example, by focusing upon the language, presentation, and imagery of the naturalist writings of Anders Sparrman, Pratt revealed how Sparrman constructed an image of southern Africa freely open to European domination Pratt, therefore, demonstrated the value of an interdisciplinary approach to a historical topic.

Imperial Eyes also revealed the inherent value of travel narratives in the history of European imperialism. Finally, Pratt successfully incorporated the perspective of subjugated peoples in contrast to the writings of Europeans. This allowed Imperial Eyes to be international in scope and scale. Pratt attempted to draw continuity in European perceptions of non-Europeans over the course of years; however, Pratt skipped large periods of time in between some writings. The first eight chapters of the book surveyed travel accounts mostly written between the s and the s.

However, the final two chapters addressed only a handful of accounts between the s and the s. Also, Pratt focused almost exclusively upon Africa and Latin America in her study. This approach did not incorporate European travel writing in regard to Asia, the Pacific, or North America. Pratt did not demonstrate how or if European travel writing in a major colony like India differed from southern Africa or Peru.

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Imperial Eyes also failed to fully consider the wide variety of travel accounts. Although Pratt discussed shifts in style and motivation in travel writing over time, she depicted European travel writing as monolithic and consistent over years. For example, in Insurgent Mexico, the American journalist John Reed recounted his experiences traveling in Mexico and reporting on the Mexican Revolution in and Nevertheless, Imperial Eyes represented a pioneering approach to the history of imperialism by employing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of travel narratives.

Dec 12, Emily rated it it was amazing. I learned so much more than I can say from it. Great commentary on how the world is based on a fairly "western" European culture and tradition. It gives insight as to why this has developed and is hard to change. Nov 12, Michelle Boyer rated it really liked it Shelves: While reading Imperial Eyes , my background in American Indian Studies led me to continue to question how, and when, travelers and explorers are representing Indigenous peoples. Imperial Eyes itself is fascinating on many levels. While I tend to disagree with the way in which Indigenous peoples across the globe were colonized, it is perhaps safe to say that the literature that appears from these periods of colonization are beneficial products of those campaigns.

Through some of these stories, we are better able to understand the complex human relationships that formed during the colonial contact era. Particularly interesting was the story of Joanna. Pratt argues that this story in part symbolizes a political allegory, and alludes to the independence America sought from England While I agree, I would also suggest that the tale of Joanna is a romanticized story about rejecting colonization as an Indigenous individual if you can obtain enough agency to reject your colonizer.

After all, the story ends with Steadman returning to England where he finds a new love interest, and Joanna is left behind and dies at the hands of jealous others because of her love affair — thus, the colonizer is free to return home, but the colonized female figure is forever tarnished in her homeland, and now having no where else to go, or no other community to support her, she is instead doomed to die perhaps alluding to the final form of colonization.

It is important to note that peoples across the globe are still being colonized, but also that there are still populations of people that are traveling in various forms crossing borders, etc.