The reverberations between observer and observed, between self and world, allow the writer to celebrate the local while contemplating the universal… a conscious commitment to represent the strange and exotic in ways that both familiarize and distance the foreign; a writerly concern with language and literature; and finally, thematic concerns that go beyond descriptions of people and places visited” (Casey Blanton in Travel Writing: The Self and the World, page 5).
This summer I took a grad class on Travel Writing (it’s actually the reason I originally started this blog). We read many of the writers that focus on travel writing, both people that write about travel and those that simply critique it. One of my favorites was Casey Blanton. Her writing is clear and she actually SAYS something about what it means to write about travel.
After giving a history of travel writing and how the genre has evolved into what it is today, Blanton narrows down the specific criteria for what characteristics are usually seen: a narrator describing the foreign, elements borrowed from fiction, and ultimately connecting the self by means of the experience to the bigger picture. She argues “Indeed the journey pattern is one of the most persistent forms of all narratives – both fiction and non-fiction” (2). She also argues that the elements of fiction have grown the genre and made it what it is today, it “often borrows from the world of fiction to establish motivation, rising and falling action, conflict, resolution, and character” (4).
Blanton describes current travel writing as “a place where values are discovered along the way, not imported; a place where other cultures can have their say; a place where self and other can explore each other’s fictions; a place that, as Ishmael warns us, ‘is not down on any map’” (29). I love that travel writing can be so many different things, because everyone has their own personal preferences for what they like to read, and SO MANY people love to read about travel, culture, exotic places, adventures, etc. There’s something out there for everyone!
What kind of travel writing do you prefer: Descriptions/photos of a foreign place? Highlighting the people that live there? Personal stories of experience while traveling?