Negative Representation And the Germination of English Identity In Medieval And Early Modern Travel Narratives
Date of Award
Master’s Degree In English
Dr. Rachel Carnell
Dr. James Marino
Critics have debated the use of post-colonial analysis to treat travel texts prior to the colonial period, often categorizing such representations of peoples and cultures through either intellectual curiosity or material necessity, with necessity as the deciding factor in whether or not a text “others” in its representation. An investigation of medieval and early modern English travel narratives challenges this idea, as writers from the fourteenth through the early seventeenth century establish a discourse of superiority regardless of whether their texts depict curiosity or necessity. Recognizing that negative representations of others are not exclusive to travel texts that favor necessity over curiosity, I explore three travel texts: Mandeville’s Travels (c. 1357), Hakluyt’s Voyages (or The Principal Navigations) (1589, 1599-1600), and Coryat’s Crudities (1611), whose representations of cultures and peoples certainly differ; yet these works are also profoundly similar. These texts, which span nearly four centuries of English literary history, reflect the English representation of a non-English Other during an era when the nation’s own identity was coalescing. Moreover, they demonstrate that, curiosity or necessity aside, this representation of cultural others promotes the development of a discourse of superiority. Furthermore, these writers’ depictions illustrate how early the ideas and attitudes of English superiority began to develop and how travel narratives contributed to this rise. The representation of difference gleaned from these texts v illuminates future attitudes toward the colonization and exploitation that mark English history in the centuries that follow.
Unterborn, Kelly R., "Negative Representation And the Germination of English Identity In Medieval And Early Modern Travel Narratives" (2020). ETD Archive. 1231.