He Idea of England in Eighteenth-Century Indian Travel Writing 

Categories: First Impressions
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In European travel writing the East was perceived from the point of view of expansion, power, and knowledge intermingled with a sense of curiosity, which buttressed and legitimized the so-called truth that the East was exotic and aesthetically antiquarian. This image was fraught with a dualism that contested ‘idea’ with ‘imagination’ and ‘image’ of the East (see, e.g., Andras; Leask, Mohanty; Pratt; for a bibliography of travel studies see Salzani and Tötösy de Zepetnek). As Susan Bassnett argues, travel writing is not just an innocent account of what one sees; rather, it throws light on how one culture constructs its image of other cultures: ‘Two hundred years ago India was the land of the fabulous and fantastic, the ‘Exotic East.

’ Travelers returned with tales of marble palaces with gilded domes, of kings who weighed themselves in gold, and of dusky maidens dripping with pearls and rubies. Before this sumptuous backdrop passed elephants, tigers and unicorns, snake charmers and sword swallowers, pedlars of reincarnation and magic, along-hairedascetics on beds of nails, widows leaping into the pyre.

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It was like some glorious and glittering circus-spectacular, exciting, but a little unreal’ (Keay 13). IOnecan argues that in European travel writing the ‘East’ has always been — from the middle ages to modernity — viewed from an oversimplified, provincial, and reductive position.

Edward W. Said’s observation that ‘Orientalism is premised upon exteriority’ is thus relevant and suggests the mythical synonymy that the West is Europe and consequently, its denizens belong to a superior race.

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The East, its natural antonym by default, is insipid, tame, and thus constitutes the lesser ‘other.’

Bassnett proposes that the cartographer, the translator, or the author of a travel narrative is not an innocent producer of texts and that in this process travel writing becomes a vicious circle where images of the ‘other’ undergo distortions whereby the white traveler ‘first impressions’ almost always eclipse the empirical order of seeing things. Also, Barbara Maria Stafford argues that the positivist bias of the enlightenment travelogue was superseded by a ‘romantic quest which [leads] ultimately, not unidirectionally out into the blank plains, dense forests, or nebulous skies of a beckoning or unknown land, but back into a tangled self’ (Fulford and Kitson 167). Said attributes this wide range of assumptions to a ‘high-handed executive attitude of the nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century European colonialism’ (2). Colonialism marked the historical process whereby the ‘West’ attempted systematically to cancel or negate the cultural difference and values of the ‘nonWest’ (Gandhi 16) thus the clash between authenticity and imagination in a close and circumscribed zone. Authenticity and imagination in travel narratives became complicated and problematic: ‘bound to a negative account of the wonder aroused by distant lands, associated with a socially exclusive desire to possess the ‘singular’ object or else (especially in the later part of the period) a vulgar, popular interest in exotic objects for commercial purposes.

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He Idea of England in Eighteenth-Century Indian Travel Writing . (2022, Aug 21). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/he-idea-of-england-in-eighteenth-century-indian-travel-writing-essay

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